Stakeholders from various social sectors in Malawi Friday morning had an opportunity to interface with Members of Parliament and present their views on the 2020/2021 National Budget during a public hearing organized by Parliament of Malawi.

The public hearing, conducted at the Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC), was organized to provide a platform to the public to contribute views on allocations to social sectors in the 2020/2021 National Budget.

It drew participation from various civil society organizations, such as NGO-Coalition on Child Right, Civil Society Education Coalition, Malawi Health Equity Network and Action Aid, as well as the general public.

Speaking as she opened the event, Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani Hara said the hearing was organized as a way of enriching debate of the budget by parliamentarians to ensure that the passed budget fully represents the views of Malawians.

‘This hearing is one way of fulfilling one of our mandates of representing the will of the people. Ideally, we are supposed to go to the constituencies to ask for the views of the people on the budget but we are limited in resources so we opted for inviting organizations from various sectors that represent the voice of the voiceless,’ said Hara.

At the end of the function, Hara said she was impressed by the contributions that participants had made, and promised that the House will take on board the views as it resumes to debate the budget on Monday

‘We have taken note of the suggestions made, and as Parliament, we will present them to the Executive which manages the public purse. Indeed, there are concerns that usually the Executive ignores these views, but since this is a new administration, our expectation is that we will see change,’ said Hara.

UNICEF Deputy Country Representative Margarita Tileva, whose organization supported the organization of the hearing, commended Parliament for the initiative, saying it ensures that Members of Parliament are mindful of the views from the public as they pass budgets.

‘This public hearing is an opportunity for the public and the civil society to understand the key issues in the National Budget and highlight the gaps and challenges that Parliament and the Executive should take on board to improve in the delivery of social services,’ Tileva said.

Tileva added that it was the hope of her organization that the suggestions made by the participants at the function will be taken on board by both Parliament and the Executive as they represent the views of the general public.

Civil Society Education Coalition Project Manager Kisa Kumwenda said the hearing provided an opportunity for his organization to highlight some of the issues that they noted in the 2020/2021 budget.

‘It was an opportunity for us to present our concerns that Parliament should consider as it debates the budget. For instance, we have highlighted cuts in the allocation to the education sector which we think will affect teaching and learning especially during this COVID-19 pandemic,’ said Kumwenda.

The public hearing was organized by Parliament of Malawi in conjunction with UNICEF, USAID and National Democratic Institute (NDI).

The 2020/2021 National Budget was presented by Finance Minister Felix Mlusu on September 11, 2020. For the past two weeks, Members of Parliament have been discussing the budget in clusters.

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