SONA 2020: Balancing development and politics, renewing our love for our country

Written by  MBC Online

INTRODUCTION
Madam Speaker, we have come to Parliament because we have a duty to serve our country and the people that voted for us; and we are all here because we represent Malawians.

05
June


It is important for us to define the mission that brings us here; the mission by which we want to serve Malawians. The first step in solving a problem is to identify, define and accept the problem.


The first problem we have experienced in the past year is that we like politics more than development in this country. We have forgotten our love for our country.


Let us also admit we have become a divided nation. We have been thinking and voting on regional lines for some time now. We often forget that we are one people, one country, one Malawi. Let us unite.


We have allowed Malawi to be a country where we offend and hurt others in the name of human rights. We have allowed others to kill, burn property and frustrate development in the name of human rights. Is that the Malawi we want?


Let us accept that we have people who think they can lead Malawi by destroying the only country we have. We are sometimes hungry for destruction more than we desire peace and unity. Let us love our country.


Let us admit we have a crisis. Coronavirus is real and coronavirus is a global crisis. Malawi is not being spared. Yet, we are taking this problem lightly.


Let us admit we have a dilemma between going to an Election too soon or preventing the spreading of Coronavirus. As a nation, we need to make a collective decision. This Parliament must make its voice heard before the people.


And let us also admit that we sometimes do what is not right because the Court has said so. But let us remember that Parliament is more supreme above the Courts. We are elected members who represent the people and we have the authority to make laws for the Judiciary to interpret.


Madam Speaker, I want Malawi to be a country where everyonemust be accountable. Nobody should be above the law and nobody should be above criticism. The essence of democracy is that everyone must be accountable to someone else. Only God is accountable to no one.


The President and the Executive are always held accountable every day by this House and the people. Parliament is held accountable. But who holds the Judiciary accountable?


I respect the Courts. Speaking my views when the Courts err is not attacking the Courts. This poor thinking must stop. As a matter of


fact, no judge in this country must live in fear if you have a clear conscience. Just do your job right!


This Parliament respects the Courts. But that does not mean that we must agree with every judgement that comes from the Courts. We must all hold one another accountable.


Let me say one thing for record. With the decision which the Court has made on the issue of irregularities, we will never, never have a valid and credible Election in this country because there will always be some irregularities in any Election. We have set a precedence by which the next Election will be even more disputable.


We have set a precedence when your election as Members of Parliament can be nullified just because a well-meaning officer tried to correct a mistake using tippex.


I was voted by the people as President exactly through the same process that voted for every Member of Parliament and ward councillors. And I was sworn in as President of this country.


Section 83 of The Constitution of Malawi prescribes the foundational constitutional order of this country. According to this Section, “The President shall hold office for five years from the date that his or her oath of office was administered, but shall continue in office until his or her successor has been sworn in.” Those of you whoare plotting otherwise will be undermining the constitutional order and therefore committing treason.


From today, anyone can now rush to Court and demand nullification of an Election because an officer corrected an error even if that correction does not affect the result of the Election. Is that the Malawi we want?


The essence of an Election is that we must go into office by the will of the people. In every modern democracy, the will of the people isin the numbers that vote for us. The Court failed to show or prove that irregularities affected the result of the Election.


In as far as the result of an Election is intact, then the will of the people prevails. We cannot, and we should never, nullify an Election if any irregularities do not affect the results of the Election. Nullifying an Election is nullifying the will of the people.


I raise these matters before this House because we represent the people. Some of the politicians destroying this country are not even represented in this House. I raise these matters because I have one plea to Parliament. For the sake of developing our country, for the sake of the people, let us use our authority to set right what is not right.


I therefore call upon this Parliament to make sober decisions, for the sake of Malawians. Let us set aside politics and love our country.


It is for this reason that I have entitled my address “Balancing Development and Politics: Renewing Our Love for Our Country”.


MACRO-ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT
Madam Speaker, it must go on record thatMalawi’s economy hasbeen resilient. We have survived one crisis after crisis. Rising from the ruins of Cashgate, crossing times of floods, and surviving scorching famines. We have survived the worst of the times.


The country has just survived the economic shocks of the Cyclone Idai. That cyclone was so devastating that we needed $365 million (Three Hundred Sixty-Five Million Dollars) for recovery and rebuilding broken lives. Then came another round of shocks in the economy – political violence!


The political violence of the last one year disrupted businesses, undermined revenue and slowed down the economy. I must report to this Assembly that the vandalism; burning of Government and private property; the cold blooded murders and mob killings; and the scaring away of tourists and investors has cost us K62 billion. The same suffering poor Malawian taxpayers and victims of the violence will pay the cost.


I must also report that one ulterior motive for the violence was, in some people’s words, “to obliterate the DPP economy” and label my Government a failure. They failed. The negative drive to close down borders and airports was intended to shut down taps of revenue, suffocate the economy, subject innocent Malawians to suffering and create anger to incite people into the streets and overthrow my Government. We survived.


As soon as violence failed to shut down our borders and cripple the economy, Coronavirus came and locked down the world. Business has slowed down, revenue collection undermined and demand to spend on social protection increased.


Madam Speaker, this is part of the context in which our budgetcomes this year. In spite of the challenges, the economy continues to grow. The International Monetary Fund has once described Malawi as an excellent and overperforming economy.


Although post-election violence and Coronavirus has shaken the economy in the past fiscal year, the economy remained defiantly resilient because we built solid foundations for growth in the first five years.


I am optimistic that this country will continue to do well because we continue standing on solid economic fundamentals. We maintain record low interest rates, a stable currency, single digit inflation rates and low budget deficits.


With a real GDP growth rate of 5.1 percent, we still have managed to achieve the 2019 targeted 5 percent of economic growth. This is an improvement from the 3.9 percent real GDP growth registered in 2018.


The growth has been driven by favourable rains and the macroeconomic stability which my Government has maintained.


However, economic growth rate of 5.5 percent that was projected for 2020 has been challenged by Coronavirus. This pandemic has affected many growth sectors of the economy. As a result, the economy is now projected to register an estimated GDP growth of only 1.9 percent in 2020.We have also revised downwards the real GDP growth projection for 2021 from an anticipated growth of 5.8 percent to 4.5 percent.


Madam Speaker, as a way of cushioning the effect of the pandemicon livelihoods, my Government has introduced tax reliefs for consumers and businesses, reduced fuel prices, increased health care spending and emergency cash transfers to vulnerable people.


The cash transfer intervention is targeting the peri-urban areas in Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Zomba cities, covering approximately 172,337 households. Each household is receiving MK35, 000 per month. This intervention is expected to run for 6 months, starting from June, 2020.


Fiscal Policy
Madam Speaker, the 2019/2020 fiscal year started on a promisingnote in terms of domestic revenue collection. We registered positive growth in revenue collection compared to the last fiscal year.


However, revenues outturn will fall short of target because of the post-elections violence during the first half of the fiscal year, and Coronavirus during the second half. For this reason, we will focus on addressing revenue shortfalls in the coming year.


On the expenditure side, we will focus on creating incentives for the private sector to encourage growth and job creation. At the same time, we will do everything possible to accommodate Coronavirus spending. We will continue with aggressive social protection programs. We will internally create funding for the Coronavirus crisis by delaying spending in non-health areas that are not essential to tackling the immediate crisis.


This year, Government will roll out the long awaited New Integrated Financial Management and Information System (IFMIS) on 1st July, 2020. This new system will tightly close loopholes of pilferage and smoke out ghost workers more effectively than ever. With this system, I have a message to all officers working in the public service. If you dare get tempted to steal money from Account Number One, we will catch you and arrest you. There will be no more cashgates.

Monetary Policy
Madam Speaker, in 2019, monetary policy focused on preservinginflation in single digit and steer it towards the medium-term objective of 5.0 percent. We also focused on ensuring that the value of the Kwacha is relatively stable; and ensuring recovery of private sector credit to support economic activity.


In order to achieve these objectives, the monetary policy rate was progressively lowered from 16.0 percent to 13.5 percent. The Liquidity Reserve Requirement (LRR) on domestic currency deposits was reduced from 7.5 percent to 5 percent and the Liquidity


Reserve Requirement on foreign currency deposits was reduced from 7.5 percent to 3.75 percent.


These policy interventions, the objectives of monetary policy in 2019 were largely achieved. Headline inflation generally remained in single digit, averaging 9.4 percent in the year. Similarly, the Kwacha remained relatively stable in 2019. Gross official reserves were recorded at US$846.6 million in 2019, equivalent to 4.05 months of import cover compared to US$755.2 million (equivalent to 3.6 months of import cover) in 2018.

Growth in credit to private sector was strong in 2019 as it closed the year at 21.3 percent. In contrast, annual growth rate of private sector credit stood at 11.5 percent in 2018. In real terms, private sector credit grew by 8.8 percent in 2019 compared to 1.4 percent in 2018.


Going forward, Government is committed to maintaining inflation in single digit with the ultimate goal of stabilizing it at 5 percent in the medium term. In 2020, inflation is projected to average 8.8 percent, although the risks are skewed to the upside due to the Coronavirus pandemic.


Furthermore, the Reserve Bank of Malawi will ensure that foreign exchange reserves are always above 3 months of import cover in 2020 and progressively build the reserve position to the medium term target of 6 months of import cover.


International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Credit Facility
Madam Speaker, we have been implementing the third ExtendedCredit Facility (ECF) under the International Monetary Fund. Malawi has so far successfully completed three program reviews. This has led to the IMF’s disbursements of program resources amounting to US$112.0 million. The ECF program is on track and the fourth and final review is scheduled for September, 2020.


National Planning Commission
Madam Speaker, the National Planning Commission which myGovernment established in 2017 has embarked on envisioning process of developing the successor to Vision 2020. I officially launched the nation-wide consultations on the development of the new Vision early this year. The Commission is in the process of taking the consultations to all the parts of the country.

AGRICULTURE AND WATER DEVELOPMENT
Madam Speaker, let me assure Malawians that in the 2020/2021agriculture season, the country will have enough food. This is largely due to good rains in most parts of the country and an increase in farm inputs uptake by smallholder farmers. Preliminary crop estimates projections indicate that maize production will increase from 3.3 million metric tonnes to 3.7 million metric tonnes representing 11.5 percent increase.


To ensure national food security, Government has engaged ADMARC and NFRA as well as private institutions to secure the national grain and build our Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) stocks to more than 217,000 metric tonnes. Government has allocated MK9.2 billion in the current Financial Year to procure about 46,000 metric tonnes of maize. Purchase of this grain has already started though ADMARC.


Farm Input Subsidy Programme
Madam Speaker, during the 2019/2020 Fiscal Year, Governmentmade some improvements in the implementation of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP). Government contributed about MK15,000 per 50kg bag of inorganic fertilizers and MK6,000 for every cereal seed packet. In addition, legume seed was provided free to smallholder farmers.


In order to improve the Programme further, Government will, in the forthcoming fiscal year, increase local SMEs participation and introduce electronic FISP coupons to curb fraud.


During the year under review, the agricultural sector registered a number of achievements, including:


launching and commencing the implementation of the Agriculture Commercialization (AGCOM) Project. The project is providing matching grants to farmer groups across the country;


implementation of the Sustainable Agriculture Production Programme (SAPP) in the six target districts of Chitipa, Nkhotakota, Balaka, Lilongwe, Blantyre and Chiradzulu. Cumulatively, 350 groups have been provided with Village Challenge Fund (VCF) matching grants to undertake various enterprises.

Irrigation Development
Madam Speaker, Government recognizes the fundamental role thatirrigation plays in the economic growth and development of this country. During the Financial Year, Government has been implementing the Irrigation Master Plan and Investment Framework to further develop irrigation in the country.


Implementation of projects under this framework has seen the total irrigation area increase from 116,000 to 119,000 hectares, representing 2 percent increase. In addition, the Government launched and commenced implementation of the Shire Valley Transformation Programme targeting about 100,000 smallholder farmers. This is billed as revolutionary irrigation farming in Malawi and the whole of Southern African Region.


In the 2020/2021 Financial Year, Government will construct 15 smallholder solar powered irrigation schemes totaling 220 hectares in the Southern and Central Regions under Malawi Drought Recovery and Resilience Project (MDRRP).

Water Supply and Sanitation Services
Madam Speaker, during the 2019/2020 Financial Year,Government implemented a number of initiatives aimed at improving access to potable water in the rural and urban areas. These include:


rehabilitation of 12 gravity fed schemes, development of 450 boreholes and construction of 266 sanitation facilities in schools, market centers and health centres in Rumphi, Nkhotakota, Phalombe, Mangochi and Ntcheu under the Sustainable Rural Water and Sanitation Infrastructure Project and the Malawi Drought Recovery and Resilience Project;


drilled 440 boreholes thereby bringing the total number to 545 across all the 19 drought affected districts;


completed the construction of new water supply system from Likhubula River in Mulanje to Blantyre City. This brings an additional 20,000 cubic meters of potable water to the city of Blantyre and surrounding areas;


continued with construction works to raise Kamuzu Dam 1 under Lilongwe Water Board; and


completed the rehabilitation and expansion of Dowa, Dwangwa, Salima, Nkhotakota and Ntchisi Schemes under Central Region Water Board.


In the forthcoming Financial Year, Government plans to rehabilitate 7 gravity fed schemes and rehabilitate 560 boreholes under the Malawi Drought Recovery and Resilient Project in 19 drought affected districts.


Madam Speaker, Government will continue with construction ofnew water supply systems, rehabilitation and extension of existing schemes through the various projects currently under implementation but also introduce new projects to start in the upcoming Financial Year. These include:


completion of the rehabilitation of 6 gravity fed schemes under the Sustainable Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project;


rehabilitation of Nkhatabay Water Supply System; and


construction of New Water Source on Shire River for Blantyre Water Board.


EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Madam Speaker, Government is implementing several initiatives inthe education sector to improve the provision of quality, accessible and relevant education to the people of Malawi. During the year under review, Government continued to construct 250 secondary schools across the country under the Secondary Education Expansion Development Project. The Project is being implemented in two phases. So far, construction works in the sites under phase I have commenced.


Let me report on the major achievements made in the Basic Education Sub-sector. Government:
continued with construction of 14 new Primary Schools in Urban and Rural Areas and Provision of Equipment. I am pleased to report to this august House that construction work progress of the project is at 60 percent with six sites roofed; and
commenced the Expansion and Upgrading of Domasi College of Education in September, 2019. Construction works are expected to be completed in November, 2020.


With regard to tertiary education, I am pleased to report to this august House that Government abolished the quota system of selecting students into higher education institutions. All students will now be selected on merit.


Government also increased enrolment in universities from 34,000 students in 2018/2019 academic year to 36,000 students in 2019/2020 academic year, representing 6 percent increase.


Following the closure of schools in March this year owing to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Government has put in place measures to ensure continued learning for our children whilst at home. These include:
online learning for secondary school learners; and emergency Radio Education Programme through the public broadcaster specifically targeting primary school learners.


Madam Speaker, in the forthcoming Financial Year, Government will:


complete construction of three (3) Teacher Training Colleges for primary school teachers in Mchinji, Rumphi and Chikwawa;
establish the Teachers Council, a regulatory body for teachers in the country; and


Continue recruitment and deployment of teachers especially in rural primary schools in order to reduce the high pupil teacher ratio.


ENERGY AND MINING DEVELOPMENT
Madam Speaker,Government continues to implement programmesthat are geared towards improving energy generation, transmission and distribution.


During the period under review, Government:
continued with the implementation of extended MAREP Phase 8 Programme in which a total of 606 rural centres were electrified through grid connection thereby increasing access to electricity in the rural areas;
successfully developed and negotiated the Access to Clean and Renewable Energy (ACRE) Project which will be supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Project aims at promoting the dissemination of renewable energy technologies for power supply, lighting and heating and will be implemented over a four-year period up to 2023; and
continued with construction of Tedzani IV Hydropower Station which will add 18 megawatts to the national grid by October, 2021.


Madam Speaker, Government will, in the coming Financial Year,undertake the following initiatives:
develop a 350 megawatts hydropower project at Mpatamanga Gorge on the Shire River;
complete construction works for Tedzani IV Hydropower Plant;
complete the 60 megawatts Solar Power Plant at Nanjoka in Salima;
commence construction works of 20 and 21 megawatts Solar Power Plants at Golomoti and Nkhotakota respectively;
implement the Malawi – Mozambique Interconnector Project that will allow Malawi to increase the power supply capacity by 50 megawatts; and
implement the MAREP Phase 9 Programme which will electrify over 500 rural centres.


Madam Speaker, as regards mining, Government continuessupporting the growth and development of the mining sector in the country. During the year under review, Government implemented the Geological Mapping and Mineral Assessment Program in order to unveil the country’s true mineral potential.
Let me also report to this august House that Government has established a National Mining Investment and Development Company to champion investment in the mining sector. In addition, Government is in the process of establishing a Malawi Mining Regulatory Authority which will regulate the mining sector.


NATURAL RESOURCES AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Madam Speaker, Government continues to protect the naturalresources and implement interventions aimed at mitigating the negative impact of climate change. In this regard, Government created the Climate Change Management Fund in order to provide financial resources for stimulating cooperation, participation and implementation of climate change interventions in the country.


Government will implement the following mitigating measures of climate change in the next financial year:
protect 88 forest reserves and 20 state owned plantations (90,000 hectares) from high levels of encroachments and fires and regulate movement of forest products both locally and at international level; and
continue to enhance private sector involvement in the management of forest reserves and plantations.


YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AND EMPOWERMENT
Madam Speaker, Government recognizes that a large population of the country is composed of the youth. In this regard, Government is implementing deliberate programmes which are aimed at promoting youth employment in the country.


In the Financial Year under review, Government achieved the following in addressing some of the challenges affecting our youth:
implemented the Jobs for Youth (J4Y) project which will create 17,000 jobs;
rehabilitated Ngala, Naminjiwa and Mbandira community technical colleges in Karonga, Nkhotakota and Phalombe districts
respectively, and Neno Youth Development Center in Neno; and identified construction sites and engaged contractors to construct Nyasa Big Bullets and Be-Forward Wanderers stadiums.


Going forward, Government will continue implementing youth friendly programmes that will provide employment to our ever growing youth population.


TRADE AND INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT
Madam Speaker, Government recognizes the important role thattrade and industry play in the socio-economic development of our economy.


To this end, Government continues to undertake several reforms to facilitate an enabling environment for investments. These reforms include Electronic Permit (E-permit) System that has reduced the time it takes to obtain various permits such as Business Residence Permit and Temporary Employment Permit from six months to five days.


Government reviewed the Investment and Export Promotion Act which aims at strengthening Malawi Investment and Trade Centre in order to improve its capacity on investment and trade promotion. The Bill is expected to be tabled in this august House.


In the next Financial Year, Government will:
continue to create a conducive environment for trade and industry by reviewing related national policies including Business Licensing Policy and Anti-Counterfeit Policy; and continue the implementation of the National Export Strategy which focuses on strengthening the private sector, investment promotion, trade facilitation and economic empowerment.


TOURISM DEVELOPMENT
Madam Speaker, tourism remains a priority sector and a vehicle foreconomic growth and wealth creation. However, the emergence of Coronavirus Pandemic has adversely affected the sector’s contribution towards Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


The anticipated financial and job losses in the sector are huge and likely to worsen should the pandemic persist. However, in order to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, Government is implementing the following measures:
suspension of 1 percent Tourism Levy on tourism goods and services consumed;
general deferment of business loan repayments; and
encouraging voluntary pay cuts in the sector to sustain existing jobs.


Government is also considering establishing a bailout fund to support the tourism sector.


In order to build resilience in post-COVID-19, Government is developing a National Tourism Crisis Management Strategy and Plan for effective coordination of crisis management in the sector.


Government will soon undertake a comprehensive review of the Tourism and Hotels Act to among others, establish a semi-autonomous Tourism Authority. Government will also develop a Tourism Master Plan and carry out a feasibility study for the development of Nankumba peninsular as a tourism hub.


TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE
Madam Speaker, Government continues to provide direction andfacilitate the development of the transport sector. Road transport currently remains a pre-dominant mode of transport although efforts are underway to improve the other modes of transport through the implementation of the Transport Master Plan.


In the year under review, Government implemented a number of road projects which include:


Dowa-Chezi Road, with a continuation of the road from Dzaleka passing through Dowa Boma to Chezi on Salima-Lilongwe Road covering a 14.7 km stretch which has been completed;


Kawere-Mkanda Road involving upgrading to bitumen standards of 10 km road from Mchinji Boma to Kapiri which has been completed;
phase II of Construction of Thyolo – Thekerani – Muona – Makhanga Road, which is estimated to be completed by December, 2020;


Lirangwe – Chingale – Namatunu – Machinga Road, involving upgrading of 62 km earth road to bitumen standard;


Upgrading of the Ntcheu – Tsangano Road, involving upgrading of 64 km of the earth road from Tsangano Turn-Off to Mwanza to bitumen standards;


Rumphi – Hewe Turn – Off, involving improvement of a 20km stretch from Chikwawa on the road to Nyika to Hewe Turn – Off; and


Njakwa – Livingstonia Road, involving upgrading to bitumen standard of the 75 km earth road, and the project is currently at 65 percent completion.


In order to ease traffic congestion which has of late affected our major cities, Government is implementing some road projects to improve the flow of traffic in the cities and urban centres. Some of these interventions include:


construction of Traffic Interchange at Area 18 on the Parliament Roundabout – Bingu National Stadium Road in Lilongwe which will be completed in the next financial year; and upgrading of the M1 Road in the city of Lilongwe involving construction of dual carriageway from Chidzanja Road Junction to Mchinji Roundabout. Construction works on this project will commence soon.


Turning to rural roads, Government has launched 72 contracts for construction of bridges with funding from the Roads Fund Administration as a complementary package to rural road improvement projects under MASAF and CDF.


Some of the road construction projects that will be launched in the coming Financial Year include:
rehabilitation of sections of M1 Road from Kamuzu International Airport – Mzimba Turn Off Junction and Kacheche – Chiweta; covering a total distance of 347 km; upgrading of the road from Nsipe to Liwonde covering 55km; and construction of weighbridge stations in Dedza, Bwengu in Rumphi and Madziabango in Chikwawa.


We will also be implementing a Toll Gate system on selected sections of the M1 Road to generate additional revenue for road maintenance in the country.


Madam Speaker, Government recognizes the contribution that air transport makes to both tourism and international business. In order to sustain this contribution, Government has recently been prioritizing infrastructure improvement in all major airports in the country.


Government has also procured navigation and communication equipment, and 5 fire-fighting engines for Kamuzu and Chileka International Airports in order to ensure safety and security of our airports and airspace.


Turning to rail transport, Government, through the National Transport Master Plan, is implementing the following projects: –
construction of a combined rail/road bridge for the Ruo Breakaway at Osiyana near Makhanga in Nsanje on the Limbe– Marka Railway Line and Thyolo–Makhanga Road; rehabilitation and upgrading of a 399 km Nkaya – Mchinji Railway Line; rehabilitation and construction of Limbe – Sandama section on the Limbe – Marka Railway Line; and construction of a new railway bridge across the Shire River at Shire North in Balaka.


Government continues to implement the Likoma Jetty project, which commenced in 2019/2020 Financial Year. Considerable progress has been achieved in the construction of the Jetty whose completion would be very beneficial especially to Malawians living on the islands of Likoma and Chizumulu.


INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY
Madam Speaker, Government recognizes that knowledge is power.As such, Government is committed to put in place a conducive environment to ensure that the citizenry have greater access to adequate information to make informed decisions and contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.


I am pleased to inform the august House that during the period under review, Government:
increased mobile penetration from 40.3 percent in 2018 to 48.1 percent in 2019;
scaled up internet penetration from 28.1 percent in 2018 to 32.1 percent in 2019; and
increased operators’ growth from 11 in 2018 to 15 operators in 2020.


In order to sustain the gain registered in the ICT, Government will continue to invest in information, civic education and communications technology through implementation of projects focusing on rural and urban technology needs.


HEALTH AND POPULATION
Madam Speaker, we are working towards achieving UniversalHealth Coverage (UHC) to ensure that all Malawians, irrespective of
their social and economic status, are able to access quality, equitable and affordable health care.


In order to expand health service delivery in the country, Government continued to construct and rehabilitate District Hospitals, Community Hospitals, Health Centres, and Health Posts across the country. I am pleased to report that the National Cancer Centre is now operational and Phalombe District Hospital will be operational later in the year.


Government continues to provide enough resources for procurement, storage and distribution of medical supplies in the country. The Central Medical Stores Trust was recently recapitalized to the tune of MK5 Billion. As a result of this recapitalization, availability of medicines and medical supplies in all hospitals has improved from an average of 73 percent in 2018/2019 Financial Year to 75 percent in 2019/2020 Financial Year. It is expected that by end of June this year, the availability of medicines and medical supplies will increase to 85 percent.


Injuries, including road traffic accidents, feature among the top ten contributors to ill health in Malawi. For this reason, Government has introduced a fully operational pilot Emergency Medical Service along the M1 stretch from Blantyre to Ntcheu with a toll-free number (118) to call in case of an accident.


Under this medical service, Government has trained 443 community members as first responders to accidents, 34 ambulance drivers and 89 health workers in accident victim management. In addition, twelve (12) purpose-built fully equipped ambulances have been procured. Government is also constructing the Lilongwe Institute of Orthopedics and Neurosurgery with support from development partners to cater for health care needs arising from road traffic accidents, among others.


CORONAVIRUS
Madam Speaker, let me now talk about the coronavirus pandemic.As we are aware, coronavirus has taken the world by surprise. This is an unprecedented outbreak and it is devastating.


So far the world has registered over five million cases. More than 300,000 people have died. Health systems are struggling to cope. Economies are crumbling. Human social cohesion is falling. And no one has been spared.


Here in Malawi, since we registered the first confirmed case on 2nd April, the numbers have been rising. We are over 350 cases now. And experts warn us that we should brace for the worst. I repeat, we must be ready for the worst.


At the same time, Madam Speaker, we can also be proud that we acted faster in responding to the situation. You will recall, that on


20th March, 2020, I declared a State of Disaster. I established a Special Cabinet Committee on Coronavirus whose task was to coordinate efforts in fighting the disease.


However, it became necessary to have an all-inclusive and multi-sectoral unit to coordinate our fight. I therefore established the Presidential Taskforce on Coronavirus which reports directly to me. The taskforce is providing national guidance in the fight against the pandemic.


Madam Speaker, Government, in consultation with DevelopmentPartners, developed a National Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Plan budgeted at K157 billion. Already, we have mobilized over K14 billion.


In addition, in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, we have put in place a number of measures to manage and reduce the spread of the virus. These measures include the following:


•    recruitment of 2,000 healthcare workers using local resources. This is in addition to 1,617 healthcare workers that have been recruited using Global Fund resources;


•    increasing risk allowances for all healthcare workers in the country;


●        raising awareness and disseminating information on measures to control and prevent transmission of the virus to the general public;


•    capacity building for frontline Health Care Workers on case management and infection prevention;


•    strengthening surveillance and screening at points of entry;


•    supporting Malawian students studying abroad with a relief package to cushion them from the impact of lockdown as a result of Coronavirus; and


•    strengthening Laboratory Capacity to detect Coronavirus. To date, we have established a total of 13 Coronavirus Testing sites. These are:


i.    Kamuzu Central Hospital;


i.    Partners in Hope Laboratory;


i.    National Health Reference Laboratory;


i.    Community Health Surveillance Unit (CHSU) in Lilongwe;


•    Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital;


•    College of Medicine Laboratory;


•    Malawi Liverpool Welcome Trust in Blantyre;


•    Mzimba District Hospital;


i.    Mzuzu Central Hospital;


•    Zomba Central Hospital;


•    Nsanje District Hospital;


xii.   Thyolo District Hospital; and


•    Balaka Dream Molecular Laboratory.


Madam Speaker, let me take this opportunity to thank ourhealthcare workers for all you are doing to save this country from Coronavirus. From our Health Surveillance Assistants in the villages to the doctors at our Central Hospitals and all technical experts in various sections, you are the heroes and heroines in this war. We thank you.


I want to assure you that my Government will do all that is necessary to support you so that together we should defeat this pandemic.


Let me also thank all Malawians and the private sector who are adhering to the measures we put in place to prevent the spread of the disease.


As I said in one of my statements, Coronavirus is a unique situation to everyone in the world. Because of this uniqueness, there is no model we can learn from to fight the disease. The only model is ourselves.


Let me repeat; Coronavirus is real. Make no mistake about it. It is a very serious problem. If we are not careful, we will suffer far worse

and long-term consequences than we have already suffered; and no one will be spared.


So, let us stop politicizing the fight against Coronavirus. Let us all pull in one direction to fight it. Each one of us has a role to play. Together, we will defeat this enemy.


WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
Madam Speaker, let me now turn to the role and contribution ofwomen in development.


Women are at the centre of the development agenda of my Government. We will continue to promote women into decision-making positions.


We will also continue to implement programs that are aimed at promoting the full participation of women in the transformation of our country.


That is why we are implementing a number of initiatives aimed at empowering women. In March this year, I launched the Women and Youth Loan Program. In this program, the Malawi Enterprise Development Fund will give out loans worth K15 billion to women and youth in Malawi. We are empowering women so that they can be drivers of development in Malawi.


Madam Speaker, during the year under review, my Governmentcontinued to expand the Social Cash Transfer Program to cover more beneficiaries across the country. Supporting vulnerable women for them to meet their daily needs is one way to ensure that women benefit from the improving economy.


INTERGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Madam Speaker, as I have said before, our model of developingurban centres and expecting that development will then spread to the rural areas has failed. Many of them have no access to essential social and economic amenities that we find in urban centres today.


We have been taking people to development. Now we must take development to the people through a comprehensive social and economic infrastructure development program for rural areas.


Madam Speaker, in the period under review:


•    We continued with construction of rural growth centres such as in Dowa, Chikwawa and Mchinji District Councils. These projects are at 98 percent completion rate;


•    We commenced the construction of rural and urban markets at Kapiri in Mchinji, Namitambo in Chiradzulu, Songani in Zomba and Mphanje in Thyolo; and


●        We completed the construction of Mulanje Mission Market and Chinakanaka Market and Msikawanjala Market in Mulanje; Nsanje Boma Market and Tengani Market in Nsanje.


Government is committed to ensuring that modern markets are constructed in all parts of the country. We want to improve rural marketing system and ensure that people in rural areas can easily access goods and services.


These markets are part of the plan of my Government to make rural areas centres of development in Malawi.


My vision is that rural areas should be self-sustaining. I want citizens in rural areas to enjoy quality of life like those in urban centres.


To make rural areas centres of development, my Government wants every community to have the following:

1.    Every community must be food secure;


•    Every community must have electricity;


•    Every community must have good road network;

•    Every community must have a secondary school;


•    Every community must have a community technical college;


•    Every community must have a hospital;


•    Every community must have potable water supply


LANDS, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Madam Speaker, I now turn to Lands, Housing and UrbanDevelopment. During the period under review, Government, among other things started piloting the land reform agenda.


We continued implementation of the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Project (DAHSP) for vulnerable people;


After a long process, we finalized procurement processes for the construction of 10,000 houses for National Security institutions across the country.


In the 2020/2021 Financial Year, Government will continue with implementation of various activities and projects in the sector including the following:


•    raising public awareness on land policies and the land reform agenda;


•    implementation of the DAHSP, including grant houses, and houses for people with albinism; and

•    construction of 10,000 houses for security institutions, with 1,000 houses expected to be completed during the year.

DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Madam Speaker, turning to disaster management, Malawi wasaffected by Cyclone Idai in early 2019. The cyclone made a landfall in Mozambique and spread to Malawi. It resulted in heavy rains and flooding which affected 13 districts in Malawi. Over 970,000 people were affected and 60 were killed. The country is still reeling from the effects of the Cyclone.

Government is therefore implementing recovery programmes in the districts that were hit by floods caused by the Cyclone.


Madam Speaker,in order to enhance the country’s disasterpreparedness and response, Government is implementing the National Resilience Strategy (NRS), starting with six disaster prone pilot districts across the country.


FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Madam Speaker, fighting against corruption remains a priority ofmy Government.


In the year under review, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) successfully investigated and prosecuted a number of corruption cases including money laundering, fraud and other related offenses.


With regard to law enforcement, the ACB investigated a total of 127 cases of which 86 cases were completed.

Under prosecution, a total of 41 cases were prosecuted in various courts out of which 8 cases were completed and 6 cases resulted into convictions.


The ACB also launched the 2019-2024 National Anti-Corruption Strategy which is designed to promote good governance and improve service delivery in Malawi.

Moving forward, Government will continue to improve financing for the Anti-Corruption Bureau and other relevant state organs for us to intensify efforts in corruption prevention through public awareness and investigation and prosecution.

But as I have said before, corruption is complex problem and we will defeat it if everyone of us plays our role. Instead of politicizing the problem, let us help the Anti-Corruption Bureau to fight it by reporting any suspected cases.


Let me also assure this august House that my Government guarantees total independence for the Anti-Corruption Bureau.


INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Madam Speaker, Government continues to strengthen its bilateralrelations with countries and international organizations which we share a common vision and aspirations with.


In the year under review, Government approved the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Governments of Andorra, Vietnam and Vanuatu among others.


I have also received Letters of Credence from 18 Heads of Missions from both resident and foreign based Governments. This is a demonstration of our commitment towards the strengthening of our bilateral relations.


NATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY
Madam Speaker, Government continues to strive to modernizesecurity apparatus through procurement of modern equipment, recruitment and training of security personnel and infrastructure development.

Malawi continues to deploy its security officers to regional peacekeeping and security undertakings in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on the Southern Africa Development Committee

Force Intervention Brigade mandated under the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO).


Our men and women in uniform redeployed under such assignments keep on showing bravery and professionalism which brings pride to our nation.


In the 2020/2021 Financial Year, Government will:


•    develop the Malawi Peace Commission Bill to establish the institution that will facilitate peaceful resolutions of conflicts across the country; and


•    formulate the National Service Policy and National Defence Policy.


PUBLIC SERVICE REFORMS
Madam Speaker, I wish to report that myGovernment’s PublicService Reform Agenda remains on course. We are determined to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery in the country. Through the various reforms that are under implementation, we are moving in the right direction.


Government has, among others, enacted and developed Public Service Reforms related laws and policies to provide legal backing and policy direction in the implementation of the various reforms.


In order to enhance awareness about these laws and policies amongst public servants, Government has started training public officers on the Malawi National Public Sector Reforms Policy and the Malawi Public Service Management Policy.


In addition to the mainstream civil service, the Public Service Reform Agenda has also been initiated in constitutional bodies and other arms of Government in the past year.


CONCLUSION
In conclusion, Madam Speaker, we are in a crisis. We have a very difficult road ahead of us. But not everything is lost. We continue to deliver development in spite of the crises and challenges. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. And we must be tougher!


Great countries have risen from the worst crises in human history.


We still have a bright future ahead.


What we need is to unite, to put our country first and speak with one voice. Let us rise above partisan politics and put development before politics. Malawi is bigger than us all and our children are watching us.


God Bless You All.
God Bless Malawi.
Thank you.

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