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Delivered in the
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF MALAWI
HONOURABLE GOODALL E. GONDWE,
MINISTER OF FINANCE, ECONOMIC PLANNING
THE NEW PARLIAMENT BUILDING
Friday, 26th February, 2016
MID-YEAR BUDGET REVIEW STATEMENT
Mr. Speaker, Sir, it is our tradition that before the expiry of a
financial year, the Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Government,
should provide a mid-year review of the performance of the budget
to this honourable house.
In this context, His Excellency the
President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika has directed me to
follow this tradition and through you, Mr. Speaker Sir, let me thank
the house for giving me the opportunity to do so.
What follows in this document is a short review of the
economic environment that is prevailing and what is being done to
resolve the challenges we are facing.
This is followed by a
commentary on the mid-year review of the budgetary performance
for the first half of this financial year and a revised budget in
response to the reduction of available budgetary resources and the
need to be in line with the IMF financial programme. This statement
therefore, will be short and will only be an amplification of the
detailed mid-year data which is being presented to the house in the
document that will be submitted to the honourable members shortly
after I conclude this Statement.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I wish to emphasise to the Honourable
Members that our economy is still passing through turbulent times. I
regret that we have not yet established a stable macroeconomic
environment in which low inflation and interest rates prevail, and
where the variability of the exchange rate is narrow and predictable.
In such a stable economic environment; investments that generate
macroeconomic environment also provides conditions for the
attainment of high quality economic growth rates that create the
needed high levels of employment and which lead to discernible
poverty reduction among both rural and urban populations.
The house is aware that since the shock devaluation of 2012,
when prices shot up from 11 percent to 23 percent, inflation has
stubbornly remained high; apart from a short period between May
2014 to April 2015 when inflation decelerated to 18.2 percent.
Thereafter it has kept on crawling up to 24.9 per cent in December
2015 to be the highest in SADC. Last month’s decline of the rate of
inflation to 23.5 percent is a welcome sign of light at the end of the
In general however, the rate has remained high at an
average of 23 percent during the period in question.
circumstances, interest rates have also remained high, with the
policy interest rate at the Reserve Bank of Malawi remaining for a
long time at 25 percent, and lately increased further back to 27
In tandem, prime lending interest rates at commercial
banks have also remained painfully high.
The exchange rate policy that adopted a free floating exchange
rate in May 2012, at the behest of the IMF, meant that thereafter the
exchange rate would be left to the market forces to determine its
level. It was known and many said so, that a diminishing foreign
exchange supply against a persistent high demand for forex, would
lead to a continued depreciation of the Kwacha until a point of
equilibrium is reached. Therefore in our case, the consequence of a
loss of forex subsequent to donor withdrawal of budget support and
the dwindling of tobacco export earnings, has been a continuous
depreciating exchange rate. Between May 2012 and May 2014, the
rate depreciated by 215 percent from K165 to K520 per US$ and 52
percent between June 2015 and December 2015.
The Government feels that the point of equilibrium has been
reached already and as also implied by the Reserve Bank in its
statement on the exchange rate. It is therefore expected that the
rate should stabilise soon and those speculations that are
perpetuating the depreciation should take note of this.
The house will recall that we had an intervening period of
currency stability between October 2014 and June 2015 when the
policy measures that the Reserve Bank of Malawi took and the
“currency swap” that involved the purchasing of government debt
denominated in Kwacha by the PTA Bank using dollars, briefly
restored order in the foreign exchange market and the exchange rate
steadily appreciated to just about K450 per dollar (middle rate). The
“Swap” transaction also helped to increase official foreign exchange
reserves to more than US$620 million - the highest ever reached
since independence. However the market forces emerged again to
subject the rate to an almost daily depreciation.
Prior to the flood and subsequent drought that engulfed the
country, our forecast was that, the progressive fall of the rate of
inflation that coincided with the currency stabilisation, would
steadily continue to fall and characteristically reach an acceptable
low level so that thereafter interests rates would also begin to fall
and herald a resumption of economic growth and a stable
Without the delude that afflicted Malawi in January 2015 and
subsequent drought up to April 2015 the country experienced, it is
likely that our objective of re-establishing orderly macroeconomic
conditions would have been attained in the latter part of 2015. We
would then have confirmed the IMF forecast that the growth rate in
2015 would surpass that of 2014 which was 6.5 percent.
10. The Government is determined that the macroeconomic
stability must be achieved, in particular, that interest rates should be
low enough for Malawi to resume economic optimal growth rates
and achieve food sufficiency. The Government is confident that the
measures it has instituted are strong enough for us to attain our
objective of normalising the economy within this year.
11. Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me digress a little to address a matter that
continues to trouble some honourable members.
Speaker, Sir, there has been concern that the Government is devoid
of solutions to the current economic challenges that include a
destabilised economy as symbolised particularly by a depreciating
currency as well as the prevalence of food shortages. Despite the
repeated statements that members of the Government including His
Excellency the President himself have time and again elaborately
stated doubts still persist. I know that there will still be some who,
for political reasons, will continue expressing such doubts. This is
expected. I, however, appeal to the public that we can differ on
what should be done, but that does not mean that the Government
does not have plans and policies of what to do. In the debates on
the economy that are coming, His Excellency the President has
emphasised to us in the Government that we should listen to views
from all Malawians on what should be done to reactivate economic
developments. My colleagues and I therefore, will be attentive to
what Honourable Members will say on what should be done.
However, in case there are some who genuinely require to be
informed on what we are set out to do, I would like to take this
opportunity to enumerate the measures that Government is and will
be taking to counter the economic challenges of the moment.
12. We intend to publish the Government's economic programme
of action in the short-term as well as in the medium-term shortly.
Here I am only concerned with the short-term measures aimed at
stabilising the economy and the prevention of a recurrence of food
shortage in the near term.
13. We have four main points of action but the Government is
prepared to take extraordinary measures if what we have set out to
do is not achieving results. However, let me underscore that His
Excellency the President is determined to take action to resume
normal economic activities as regards the exchange rate and interest
rates and will require that responsible people and institutions in his
administration must focus on achieving his goals.
14. The following are our plans that are being implemented:
(i) The Government is cautiously optimistic that the massive
response to its call for smallholder farmers to produce
leguminous crops will be rewarded with good prices of these
crops. It is also expected that the concomitant increase of
foreign exchange that will result from the exportation of these
crops can supplement the dwindling tobacco exports. If this
were to be the case as it should be, our balance of payments
position should improve and the exchange rate that is now
continuously depreciating could be stabilised. In the medium
term we expect that the possible exploitation and exportation
of our mineral resources can increase our exports even more.
As regards this year’s food shortage, I would like to agree with
the Minister of Agriculture that Government has the matter
under control. Just yesterday some 44 large trucks full of maize
crossed our borders into Malawi.
ADMARC was there to
welcome them. I must add however that over and above what
the Minister said, the Treasury has empowered ADMARC to
procure another large consignment of 50,000 metric tons of
maize from Tanzania. As we see it, we have and will have
enough maize in stock that will be more than enough to satisfy
ADMARC markets in the coming days. Over and above what we
ourselves are doing, the resources that have been so
generously donated lately in response to the call by His
Excellency the President, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika; will
greatly supplement what ADMARC is and will do. I know that
Honourable Members are aware of the donations from the
USA, China, Japan, the UK and Egypt. These will augment the
supply of humanitarian food for those who are unable to buy
maize. As opposed to the food that is being sold at ADMARC
markets, humanitarian food is being distributed by WFP and
other agencies on behalf of the Government.
(iii) As regards possibilities of food shortage during the coming
harvest season, the Government’s plans of rehabilitating
irrigation schemes to enable farmers to double food production
is a serious and practical solution to unfavourable climatic
conditions. It has also been designed that over and above the
rehabilitation of irrigation schemes that provide large tracks of
particularly in Salima, should be used by smallholder farmers to
produce crops twice a year regardless of whether conditions
permit or not.
It is intended that this programme should be
supplemented by large estates that have agreed to produce
irrigated food crops which the Government could buy and
ADMARC could sell at subsidised prices. The 2016/17 budget
will carry the needed funds for this programme.
Initiatives are intended to obviate the necessity of importing
food or to go begging for resources to buy food in response to
poor weather conditions.
These initiatives should be enough to improve Malawi’s
capacity to address the problem of food shortages in the short
and medium term. The measures will also improve prospects
of our balance of payments position and to bring about low
inflation and interest rates and to stabilise the exchange rate
even in the face of poor weather conditions should they recur
in Malawi during the coming seasons.
(iv) Government has also embarked on a radical fiscal adjustment
that aims at ultimately covering recurrent expenditure of the
budget with domestic resources leaving only the bulk of the
development part of the budget to be covered by external
resources. The aim is to progressively eliminate Government
domestic borrowing that fuels inflationary pressures. As Annex
2 in the document that is being circulated to members shows;
the Government has succeeded to reduce domestic borrowing
from a high domestic borrowing of K78 billion at the end of the
last half of the 2014/15 fiscal year to K4.3 billion at the end of
the first half of 2015/16 financial year. This is an encouraging
result that shows that the planned fiscal consolidation can
succeed and that the “non-food” inflation that is fuelled by
Government domestic borrowing concomitantly could be
A sustained reduction of domestic borrowing could also
resuscitate private sector confidence in the economy and could
be a factor in the quest for the resumption of acceptable and
robust growth rates and our ability to create high employment
15. And now to the main subject of the mid-term review which is
amply described in the document that will be circulated to members
shortly. There, Honourable Members will find that in annex I on
budgetary performance, total revenue and grants that were targeted
at K386.1 billion at the end of the first half of the 2015/16 financial
year were under-collected by K50.8 billion. Domestic revenues that
were targeted at K312.4 billion fell short of this amount by K12.7
billion down to K299.7 billion. Although a number of taxes
performed well, the VAT underperformed considerably by an
amount of K5.6 billion. In parallel, grants performed even worse
where the target of K75.3 billion was under performed by K36.5
billion, less than half this targeted amount.
16. I would like to underscore here Mr. Speaker, Sir, that in our
view, although the bilateral donors only formally withdrew from
budgetary support (programme grants), in fact the disbursement of
other types of grants (dedicated and project grants) is progressively
diminishing also. In parallel, donors are increasing their “off budget”
support massively. There is therefore need to strengthen our effort
at raising domestic revenues and to down play all donor grants in
general and only expect to focus more on development loans from
donors as a reliable mode of donor aid delivery.
17. In short Mr. Speaker, Sir, we have to invigorate policies that
aim at becoming progressively, more self-sufficient in budgetary
matters than has been the case so far.
This said, it should be
underscored that multilateral institutions such as the EU, the World
Bank and Export and Import Bank of China are increasing their
18. Honourable Members should lead the effort to attain selfsufficiency by deflecting public attitudes that regard foreign aid as a
permanent feature of our budget. We must progressively increase
efforts to maximise the domestic coverage of recurrent budget. As
an independent country this must be our goal. In fact such a policy is
19. Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me continue with my narration of
The recurrent expenditure that was
targeted at K358 billion, under performed by K20.9 billion down to
K337.2 billion. Although this reduction is explained by the fact that
half of the targeted expenditure on FISP of K35.7 billion was not paid
for, a sizeable amount of just under K3.0 billion was in fact saved due
to fiscal measures that were taken to ensure the needed fiscal
20. The house is being requested that the needed adjustment be
continued even more stringently in the last half of 2015/16 financial
year as part of the need to establish budgetary self-sufficiency.
21. On the basis that the house will agree to embark on the policy
of fiscal consolidation, in view of dwindling available resources; it is
suggested that the 2015/16 approved budget be revised downwards
as provided for in annex 2 where it will be seen that it is being
proposed to reduce the budget by K23.7 billion from an approved
figure of K929.7 billion to K906.0 billion. The house will see that we
propose to reduce the Recurrent budget by just over K17.1 billion
and the Development Budget by sum of K5.6 billion.
22. This will entail that for the coming months, the Treasury will
withhold resources that are intended for filling vacancies. During the
coming discussions with ministries; in consultation with the Public
Service Reform administration as well as the Department of Human
Resource and Management, proposals for reducing the size of the
public service will be discussed with a view to reducing the so called
“bloated” Civil Service.
23. In order to reduce the amount of ORT, the Cabinet has decided
that the Treasury and the OPC should review the various perks
including travel, vehicle and fuel entitlements that could be scaled
down. Therefore, the funding of ORT to ministries, will not be
against the original approved budgetary allocations but against the
revised budgetary allocations which the house will have approved.
Table 3 presents vote by vote revisions where applicable.
24. The reduction of the development budget will be made through
a suspension of a few projects that can be removed without major
impact on economic growth. It is expected that this will mostly
include small projects that dominate our (Public Sector Investment
Programme). A list of the projects that could be suspended without
an impact of the economy will be circulated in the house next week,
Monday, 29th February, 2016.
25. I would like to emphasise Mr. Speaker, Sir, that this is not a
Zero Aid budget nor was the original of 2015/16 budget as has been
popularly termed. We will expect a sizable amount of dedicated and
project grants as can be seen in Annexes I and II.
26. For the coming year, it is expected that a more inclusive tax
system could emerge that could increase tax revenues but at the
same time it is intended to subject the fiscal system to yet another
adjustment of public expenditure. Such a policy must be pursued in
parallel with public finance management reforms that are being
27. Mr. Speaker, Sir, the house will wish me to report on these
measures. The first is to assure the house that some major changes
have been made as regards the needed reconciliation of cashbook
transactions, and their mirror images the bank statements. Lack of
this necessary task is one of the major financial management laxity
that made cashgate possible. I am happy to report that for the past
5 months all ministries have been submitting their reports of their
monthly reconciliations to the Accountant General who sorts out
We have brought to a minimum extra-
budgetary expenditures and over commitment of resources and
arrears. The required improvements to the IFMIS have been taken
and the system is now more secure and faster. A new software of
IFMIS has been identified and ordered to replace Epicor which is felt
to be inadequate for proper expenditure controls. It is expected that
this new system can commence to operate within the next 3 years.
28. As part of these reforms, and in order to improve the
compliance of ministries with financial rules and regulations, we are
about to place internal auditors (financial inspectors) who will ensure
that prior to payments, transactions comply with rules and
regulations of the Government.
The Treasury has kept up its
insistence for monthly financial returns before funding that shows
how funding for previous months has been utilised and it is
publishing monthly expenditures vote by vote on its website for the
public to see how expenditures are progressing. I invite Honourable
Members to visit our website. What is required now is that these
reforms become a routine part of financial management throughout
the public service as any financial infractions will be punished as
stipulated in the Public Finance Management Act 2003.
29. As regards vote by vote budgetary performance particularly the
expenditure side of the budget it will be seen that this year, there
has been no significant over expenditures to speak of. The five votes
that gave problems last year including the Police and the Malawi
Defence Force in fact also spent within their limits. The Treasury has
strengthened its oversight function over these votes intensively.
30. Questions will be asked how if funding has gone as planned in
almost all ministries, it is that there have been complaints against
underfunding of functions. We have studied this quite closely and
find that in a number of cases ministries compare monthly funding
with their original requirements that were submitted to the Treasury
prior to Parliamentary approval of vote allocations whereas Treasury
allocates funds according to the approved budget by Parliament. In
some cases the reason has been that certain Ministries have
reprioritised functions according to the wishes of managers. We
found that Ministries tend to prioritise expenditure on travel at the
expense of other important items like fuel for ambulances in
hospitals, in the case of Ministry of Health.
31. All in all, the performance of the budget this year has been
better than before except for the projected expenditure on FISP. As
the house is aware the bulk of expenditure on FISP relates to the
imports of fertilizers and in view of the deep depreciation of the
currency, the cost of procuring fertilizers has escalated. However,
this year, instead of shouldering all the escalated costs, the suppliers
of fertilizers have had to shoulder some of the
costs and the
Government as shown in table 2 has accepted only K14.9 billion of
the total escalated costs of approximately K30 billion.
32. It will also be recalled that donors declined to contribute to the
seed subsidy of (maize and leguminous seeds) whose total cost is
estimated at K9 billion. In view of the importance of seeds in the
FISP programme, it was decided that the Government should assume
these costs and that the farmers themselves would contribute a sum
of K1.5 billion leaving K7.5 billion to be assumed by the Government.
33. The total increase in cost of FISP including seeds is K22.6 billion.
Table II shows that without these escalated costs, the domestic
borrowing would have amounted to zero but in view of the escalated
costs of fertilizers and the seed subsidy under FISP, total borrowing is
estimated at just under K23 billion which is below the targeted
domestic borrowing as at the end of the financial year on 30 th June,
2016. The IMF target under the ECF programme is K25 billion. In
view of the recurring escalating of FISP, the house will wish to see a
redesign of FISP and its management next year.
34. Mr. Speaker, Sir, lastly, I would like to request for a thorough
review of the budgetary outturn and views on how we should
approach the fiscal problems that have been posed in light of the
changed financial circumstances.
34. I thank you Mr. Speaker, Sir, for the house’s attention to this
matter and I beg to move that the house approve the revised
2015/16 budget as presented in detail in Annexes II and III.
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