Malawi is intravenously force fed a Zero Donor Input Budget

Predictably, those on the government side are tripping over themselves applauding the so-called Zero Budget Deficit. The neutrals and those opposed to the government, on the other hand, can’t tire of taking pot shots at it.

In principle, the ZDB is as it should be. The government isn’t supposed to be spending a Kwacha more than its expected income. Deficits aren’t supposed to be the norm. Incidentally, we've had surpluses in the past, haven't we? Yes, governments everywhere strive to balance their books. So our rulers shouldn't be making a song and dance about something that isn't out of the ordinary.

In fact, as far as I’m concerned the only zero in the “Zero Budget” (the president’s phrase, not mine), is donor input. Shouldn’t it therefore have been called a Zero Donor Input Budget or ZDIB? Presidential dictatorial inclinations, misspeakings, general bungling of diplomatic relationships, misplaced arrogance, and an ego of gargantuan proportions have all led to the drying up of donor taps.So our leaders shouldn’t be strutting on podiums pretending we’ve just woken up to the realisation that it’s important to be economically independent. This economic independence, if that’s what it is, isn’t voluntary. Far from it. We're being forced to adopt it because the donor community has applied chilli paste on the teats that we’ve been suckling from since our political independence 47 years ago.

But whatever moniker we want to give this budget, is it a realistic goal for a government that has had to summon parliament to pass supplementary budgets during each of the last few financial years? How do we trust its numbers when even before the ink had dried on this financial year’s supplementary budget, government coffers had already been emptied and some of the people on its payroll were having to make do without salaries?

Well, if be weaned of donor independence we must, then let’s do it. But we all must sacrifice, ordinary people and politicians alike. Incomprehensibly, however, the government wants to keep its expenditure intact, raise it even, and let the already poor Malawian shoulder all the burden.

The cabinet is just as bloated. There have been no cuts in either the number of vehicles allocated to the ministers and their deputies or in the size of their fuel and other allowances.  The Treasury Secretary is still getting private sector level benefits as if capable people who can ably captain the Treasury can’t be found within the civil service. A certain woman is still receiving millions for what is a voluntary ceremonial position. Chiefs and other useful idiots continue to be paid and paraded on state TV to parrot the government’s position on one issue or another. The president’s convoy is still ridiculously large as if paring it would somehow reduce his powers.  The president’s entourages, even for foreign trips, are unreasonably large. During foreign trips, the president continues to get booked into the most expensive suites in luxury hotels. The president continues to make frequent trips to his Ndata farm for what in reality is private business. The president’s brother is still inexplicably and unjustifiably allocated his own convoy.

There’s also the fact that we’ve too many state residences for such a small country. The president can operate from Lilongwe full time and be able to the furthest corners of Malawi within hours. When the president needs to take a break from insulting us, he can retreat to  Chikoko Bay in Mangochi but the rest of the residences should be gotten rid of. Recent fund raisers held at Sanjika Palace gives me hope that it and other residences can be profitably sold to those in the entertainment industry.

By the way, isn’t it ironical that the First Lady has to host fund-raisers during which less is money is realised than what she gets in a month for what should be a voluntary position? Anyway, that’s a story for another day. For now let’s beam our focus on the budget, the "Zero Budget."

Isn’t it immoral that in the midst of all this belt-tightening—when VAT has to be paid on even newspapers, salt, water,  and offals—each MP’s annual benefit package will be over 200% heavier? Yes, it would be immoral even were the MPs doing more than attending funerals in their constituencies and rubber stamping obnoxious bills on orders from above?

The only top government official who has been volunteered for cuts is the Vice President’s office. That isn’t surprising because the president stated mission is do his best to squeeze all political life out of the current occupant of that office.

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