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Malawi Economic Justice Network conducted a Civil Society Pre-Budget Consultation Meeting on the 2015/16 National Budget at Cross Roads Hotel in Lilongwe on 24th March, 2015.

The meeting was meant to validate and crystallise the issues that MEJN had consolidated from the Districts. The meeting was also meant to engage the civil society to voice the issues of national interests that MEJN would form part of its submissions to the Ministry of Finance Budget Consultations.

In his remarks the MEJN’s Executive Director Mr. Dalitso Kubalasa challenged Malawians to be “Nation or we seize to exist”. The ED stated that 1965 Malawi was a learning ground for Singapore. Singapore had learnt a lot of lessons from Malawi in terms of how we got independence among others.

Currently Singapore is the 8th growing economy in the world, has a successful civil service reforms and has a GDP per capita of USD 50,000. On the contrary, Malawi is now learning from Singapore on the civil service reforms and has a GDP of USD 226.

The big question to ask ourselves is “What’s wrong with us?” Moving forward, Malawi needs to seriously consider the policies and decisions that we make as a nation as these affect how we allocate and execute our national budget. The pre-budget consultations are very important as its submissions inform the government and influence policies at different levels.

Among many issues that were discussed, the citizenry think there are a lot of mis-investments that government is doing. The issue of Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) is just one example of mis-investment. The programme is highly funded such that it is overshadowing other equally important programs in agriculture such as crop and animal protection, and irrigation.

The citizenry are of the view that government should be thinking of an exist strategy to the FISP concept. Government must be able to have the time lines for the FISP. Some suggested that part of the FISP resources could also target commercial farmers who could produce maize and other food stuffs that government in return buys the same for its grain reserves. Again, the fact that FISP targets non productive group compromises the effective utilisation of the farm inputs. Some of such targeted groups end up selling the farm inputs.

The recommendation to that regard is to revisit the target group and bring on board those that are productive and will surely use the input for its intended purpose. Finally the issue of availability of inputs for this program on designated markets is still posing a lot of challenge so much so that up until now in some areas the so called beneficiaries still have coupons in their hands because they failed to procure the inputs due to non availability.

The questions people are asking are: Is the investment to this program giving us the much needed results? Is it sustainable? Are we targeting the right people? What if we begin to seriously investing in the green belt initiative?

The water sector is another sector that is highly underfunded for years. The CSO recommended Government to invest highly in the water sector. Safe and clean water would promote good health of Malawians and reduce so many diseases that Malawians suffer from because of water and sanitation issues.

By extension, the country would save a lot of funds which are currently directed to prevent diseases that are caused by the poor water and sanitation situations in the country. The gathering also lamented on inefficiencies and laxity within our water boards leading to poor service delivery and non performance but still reaping off customer and Malawians huge utility bills which has no basis whatsoever.

On education, CSOs wondered why government is allocating more resources to the training of teachers while it is failing to absorb the 10600 teachers that have already been trained in the past years. Government must strike a balance and begin to direct the resources in line with the needs of the country.