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Joyce Banda marks year with more promises

Malawi President Joyce Banda on Sunday marked one year in office with more promises to increase salaries for teachers, nurses and to double the number of beneficiaries of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) from 1.5 million to three million next year.

Banda started her speech by quoting Psalms 103 from the Holy Bible and pledged to a sea of supporters clad in her People’s Party’s (PP) orange colours at Lilongwe’s Masintha ground in Kawale Township to also distribute free cattle to a million families across Malawi by the end of this year.

But from all the promises she made, it is another wage increase in the next fiscal year that must have sent a cold chill down the spine of Malawi’s Minister of Finance Ken Lipenga and his team because just last month, government agreed on a 61 percent increase to stop a 10-day public sector strike.

In her first-ever rally in the capital, Lilongwe, designed to mark her one year in office, Banda poked fun at her mercurial predecessor the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s failed economic policies.

Banda, whose decision to devalue the kwacha has seen her groundswell of support dwindle, but made her the darling of the West, boasted about ending the fuel queues that became a common feature under her predecessor.

She said that she devalued the kwacha to help end fuel shortages, and bring in more dollars in the economy.

Banda came to power in April last year after the sudden death of Mutharika. She immediately removed the kwacha peg and devalued it by 49 percent.

Her predecessor had refused to devalue the kwacha, saying that it would cause more misery and ended up picking up fights with donors who suspended aid to punish him.

She said her charm offensive has managed to bring high-profile people to the country such as IMF’s Christine Lagarde and others.

Banda promised to better the lives of the handicapped, improve the welfare of rural women.

On education, Banda mentioned scholarships she has so far managed to get overseas, the 300 houses built for teachers and the 1 500 classrooms as her achievements in one year.

She also said US President Barack Obama has promised to send American doctors to help alleviate the shortages of medical staff in public hospitals.

“The former [US] president Clinton and his Hilary are also sending drugs for hospitals…” she said.

Earlier in the day, the President posted on her Facebook page, ‘Her Excellency Dr Joyce Banda’, that she attended prayers at the Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe with representatives of people with disabilities to mark one year in office.

The President’s Facebook post read: “As part of my commitment to help those who are vulnerable in our society, I have decided to dedicate 30 percent of my pay to go to the ministry responsible for people with disabilities to contribute in supporting people with disabilities.”

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