APM Delivers Powerful SONA At The Opening Of 47th Session Of Parliament
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I do not come to deliver a State of the Nation Address. That has its own time and day. I come here to open the 47thSession of Parliament. Above all, I am here to ask: why are we here?
Parliament is an important part of Government. Parliament is an important part of the people. Parliament is a cornerstone of democracy. But Parliament is not, and should never consider itself bigger than Government.
As Parliament, the first reason of existence is, as we say, “to make laws.” But more precisely, we are here to enact legislation for the good of the nation. We enact the laws that have been made in a collective process. Indeed, Parliament cannot, and does not make laws single-handedly. Making laws is our shared responsibility between the Executive and Parliament.
The second reason of our existence is to represent the people. We are here to act on behalf of our voters and citizens. And how many of us truly represent the will of the people? How many of us consult the people we represent?
I have seen times when Members of Parliament represent their parties more than the people. I have seen times when Members of Parliament frustrate Government business that is meant to serve the very people we claim to represent. And I ask again: why are we here?
The third reason why we exist as Parliament is to maintain oversight of the Executive on behalf of the people of Malawi. It is critical to hold the Executive accountable. But who holds us accountable? As I will be underlining later in this speech, in any human society – everyone must be accountable to someone else.
It is in performing the above roles that we become part of Government. Yes, Government is incomplete without Parliament. And Parliament cannot exist without the Executive and the Judiciary.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to emphasize that we must avoid the hubris we sometimes suffer – the political hubris of thinking that we are more important than the rest of Government. Such political pride can be birth of the tragedy of democracy.
We are here for the people. This Session will only be meaningful if we all remember that we are here to represent the people.
Far too often Mr. Speaker, we meet here to flex our political muscles. This is not a house for political posturing. This is not our house. Parliament is the house of the people. We are here on the principle of representing the people.
On that principle Mr. Speaker Sir, let me speak about matters that affect the people as we sit here. Let me speak about economic performance, energy situation, food security, public health, public sector reforms and national security.
Let me say from the outset Mr. Speaker, Sir, that as a nation, we are making steady and positive progress in most sectors of our economy, in spite of the challenges that we are currently facing. All we need now is for us to work together to sustain and build on the achievements that have been gained so far if we are to realize the sustainable and inclusive growth that we, as a nation, aspire.
For this reason, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have titled my Statement “Rising above Macroeconomic Stability.”
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we have already laid the foundation for sustainable medium-term growth through the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (MGDS III), which Government recently adopted after wide consultations with all relevant stakeholders. The MGDS III will be our overarching medium-term development strategy for the next five years. The implementation of the Strategy will economically transform the nation and make us a productive, competitive and resilient nation.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, there is no point in denying reality because we want to politick for the sake of politicking. The reality is: we have done well in economic performance in the last three years.
In three years, inflation has fallen from 24 percent to 8.4 percent as of September 2017. Interest rates have dramatically fallen and our base lending rate also declined to 18 percent by July, 2017. Our exchange rate has been stable for over two years. Further, preliminary forecast for 2017 economic growth rate is likely to be higher than the 5.5 percent that was estimated earlier. In fact, the rate of growth could be the highest in the SADC region. And Malawi is fast rising on the global doing business index.
We found a broken economy. We have achieved economic stability. We are now set to rise above economic stability. We are set for economic growth. We are set to rise again as a country.
Mr. Speaker Sir, let us agree that it is a result of sound economic management that we achieved these phenomenal results. Let it go down in history that we are a country that achieved economic stability through national disasters.
We reversed the devastating effects of the infamous Cashgate. We defied floods. We survived seasons of drought. We defied hunger. We fed our people for two years of hunger. Above all, we ran this country without budgetary aid. My Government proved that Malawi can achieve economic independence. And that’s what Malawians want. As for us, we have been tested and tried but we prevailed! The story of our economy tells it all.
Those who oppose for the sake of opposing tell us that inflation is being fixed. And I ask: was the inflation also being fixed when it was rising? They tell us: inflation is falling because we banned maize export. And I ask: why did inflation begin to fall when there was national hunger and we were importing maize instead of exporting?
Mr. Speaker Sir, this denial of our progress is testimony that this country has people who oppose my Government for the sake of opposing. This country has politicians who don’t wish Malawians well. They are so much obsessed with scoring cheap political points that they would rather see Malawi failing than prospering.
In their political agenda, they want to see our economy failing so that they should say the Government has failed. In their agenda, they have been opposing our banning of maize export because they want us to export all the maize. They would want this country to go hungry again and see Malawians suffering so that they can say my Government has failed.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we must never regret that we restricted the export of maize. Maize is the life of our people. Exporting all our maize is exporting our life. Our goal was to make sure that we have enough maize in our reserves to feed Malawians in case the next harvest goes bad. I made this decision because I mean well.
The means to the goal might be painful. But the end is good for us all. Let us not sink into cheap politics of pleasing our people today in order to betray them into suffering tomorrow. And yes, it takes pain and sacrifice to achieve good things. There is no soft ride to achievement. There is no easy walk to prosperity!
Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to report to this house that we have achieved our noble goal. We now have enough maize in our reserves to cushion us in case we don’t harvest enough. I want Malawians to sleep with peace in our mind knowing that we have food for today and we will have enough food for tomorrow.
But I have one caution Mr. Speaker. Let us not forget that we are Malawians. Let us not be carried away by international driven policies that do not work for our people. In our culture, we have always been proud to keep surplus maize in our homestead. As our people say, kulemera ndikudya! We do not stop growing maize in the next season because we have what we traditionally call chimanga chogonera! We grow more maize because we do not want to be a nation of beggars begging food from others.
Therefore, let me urge all farmers to grow more maize this season. If you wish your voters well, let every Member of Parliament in this house go to our people and urge our people to grow more maize. Maize is our life. And we cannot stop growing maize because we have enough maize.
As Government, I want to commit that we will support our farmers. This year, we have started distributing coupons and our Farm Input Subsidy Program is on course. We have defied those who wanted to frustrate and derail the program to starve millions of Malawians.
In a special vote of thanks, Mr. Speaker Sir, let me thank the Agriculture Committee of this House for taking a patriotic, firm and defiant stand in defence of the subsidy program.
DEMOCRACY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me turn to the subject of accountability. I have always said accountability is the first principle of democracy. In a democracy, everyone must be accountable to someone. And let only God be accountable to himself.
Time and again, Government gives an account of its work to the people of Malawi. Through your committees, you Members of Parliament have been examining records of government, asking questions and demanding answers.
My Government has been accountable to the people of Malawi through you. We are always accountable to Parliament. But are you accountable to Government and the people who voted for you?
As we say in Latin, quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Put it this way, who watches the watchers? Who is holding accountable the MPs who hold us accountable in this house?
I hear the people complaining that some of you are abusing Constituency Development Fund (CDF). I hear the people crying that some development projects are not completed because their Member of Parliament has abused CDF.
Government sets aside this money in the budget for the people. The fund is for development work in the constituencies. But some members are abusing the money instead of giving development to the people.
Some MPs abuse the funds of the people. And yet Mr. Speaker, the same vocal MPs stand here to accuse Government of corruption. Let me say this Mr. Speaker, and to all dear Malawians hearing me now. Something is tragic with a democracy in which those who think are watchdogs also think they must be accountable to no one. In any human society, in any democracy, no institution must be accountable to no one.
That is precisely why I delight to see Ministries, Departments and Agencies of my Government being subjected to accountability in this House. I am pleased to see accountability at work in this House and in my Government.
We have seen Public Accounts Committee ensure that Ministries, Departments and Agencies are subjected to public finance management. We have seen the Auditor General at work. Specifically, we have seen the Auditor General’s Report of 2013.
The outcome of the Report is, to say the least, very disheartening. I know that some political activists masquerading as journalists worked hard to use the 2013 Report to create a perception that corruption is worsening in my Government. It is deplorable that as a society we are descending into cheap politics of misinforming the public. But I also know that the Media Committee of this august House will not sit back and watch others destroy our society.
But let me say this: It does not matter whose Government the reports apply to. Let me warn that my Government, through this House, will hold accountable all controlling officers who fail to undertake their responsibilities as laid down in important legal frameworks. Follow the Public Finance Management Act, the Public Procurement Act, and other laws or face dire consequences.
Comply with financial rules and regulations or be ready to face the law. It does not matter who you are. As we say, the law is a blind monster that will crush anyone who gets in its way.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me also urge the National Audit Office to continue auditing all public accounts on a timely schedule. In so doing, we instill public confidence in the manner in which resources are utilized.
I am pleased to report that my Government has improved on the principle of timely auditing. The National Audit Office has produced annual audit reports up to the financial year ended 30th June, 2016. I am reliably informed that audit of financial statements for the year ended 30th June, 2017 are in progress.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me now turn to energy development. I am speaking at a time when thousands of Malawians are suffering the pain of power shortage. Our people are suffering the pain of failing to run businesses. Many homes are in the dark for hours. Barber shops for our young men are suffering. In our villages everywhere, women have to wait for hours at maize mills while children wait for food back at home. Life is no longer normal for everyone.
Mr Speaker, the first step in solving a problem is to accept the problem. Let us accept that we have a serious problem that we must solve collectively.
Let us admit that this country is suffering consequences of neglecting the energy sector for many years. Let us be honest to admit that we did not invest to expand our energy generation. For fifty years, we kept thinking as if Malawi would remain what it was in the 1960s.
As Government, we have accepted our responsibility. I am here to make Malawi do what this country could not do in fifty years. We must invest to expand power generation. That is exactly what we are doing.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, our current installed capacity for electricity is 351 megawatts, and generation by Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) has, of late, fallen to 160 megawatts. Priority for distribution of this 160 megawatts is given to essential service providers like referral hospitals and the water boards, which together consume a total of 70 megawatts leaving the remainder, of 90 megawatts, for distribution to industrial and domestic use, hence the frequent load shedding.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Malawians are aware that major reforms to improve efficiency in the energy supply chain were implemented, including the unbundling of the old Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) in order to separate the generation from the transmission and distribution functions. Through these reforms, opportunities have been created for independent power producers to invest in power generation using various technologies, in order to complement electricity generation by EGENCO. The reforms have also created an opportunity for Government to invest in new generation plants and expansion of the existing ones to meet electricity demands in this country. We are targeting 2,500 megawatts in the next 10 years. Yes, Mr. Speaker Sir, developing a country demands patience.
However, Mr. Speaker Sir, my government understands that our people are facing serious difficulties. They need power now as I speak. Therefore, we are acting on both short-term and long-term solutions.
As an emergency cover, we are bringing in generators to boost our capacity by end of December. There are several options being pursued both at ESCOM and EGENCO concurrently.
In the medium term, we are pursuing the following measures:
- Installation of grid-connected solar power plants and diesel powered generators, with a total installed capacity of 70 megawatts and 78 megawatts, respectively, to be completed before the end of 2018;
- Rehabilitation of Nkula A and Tedzani III hydropower plants, to increase generation by a total of 22 Megawatts by the end of 2018;
- Construction of Tedzani IV Power Project with support from JICA, to generate a total of 18 megawatts after commissioning in 2020;
- Construction of Kam’mwamba coal-fired power plant, with a total generation capacity of 300 megawatts, to be completed in 2020; and
- Development of new hydropower plants at Mpatamanga, Fufu, Kholombidzo and Lower Songwe, which will add a total of 869 megawatts in the long term.
The solar powered plant, diesel powered generators, the completion of rehabilitation works at Nkula A and Tedzani III by 2018 should give us an extra total generation capacity of 330 megawatts.
As you can see, we are the Government that cares because we are addressing a problem which this country neglected for fifty years.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me also take this opportunity to announce that the World Bank has committed resources amounting to over USD200 million for expansion of access to electricity, especially in the rural to semi-urban areas, to complement the Malawi Rural Electrification Project. We are the Government that is taking electricity to communities never reached before.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me now move on to healthcare. Healthcare is a top priority for us.
I have good news Mr. Speaker, Sir. We have enough resources to meet the needs of the people. In addition to MK125 billion that Government allocated to the health sector in the 2017/2018 financial year, Government is receiving various support from development partners.
The Global Fund has recently approved a USD460 million grant for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria for January, 2018 to December, 2020.
Government is also receiving a cash grant of USD47 million from GAVI to finance health systems and immunization for the next five years starting from July, 2017. GAVI will additionally support Malawi with USD26 million in offshore vaccine procurement.
Government is procuring medical equipment worth USD5.7 million with a grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB) for 49 health facilities across the country.
Furthermore, the Health Services Joint Fund which comprises Germany, UK and Norway is supporting Government with approximately USD8.1 million to procure equipment for the other facilities that were not covered by the African Development Bank grant. Additionally, the Indian Government has supported Malawi with USD500,000 to procure medical equipment for Mzuzu Central Hospital.
Government is also procuring 12 digital X-Ray machines with funds from the Global Fund and another 6 digital X-ray machines with funds from the World Bank.
The Health Services Joint Fund has also committed USD35million towards various health sector activities, including construction of health centres, purchase of medical equipment, support for service-level agreements with CHAM health facilities, support to Central Medical Stores Trust and operational support to districts.
In addition, the Global Financing Facility of the World Bank has just announced a USD20 million grant in support of our Every Women Every Child programme.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me update this august house that the construction of the National Cancer Treatment Centre which we promised, is going on very well. And our Foreign Direct Investment drive is bearing fruits with the construction of the DaeYang University Teaching Hospital, and others. With the Cancer Centre, we will significantly reduce the cost of sending patients abroad by at least 50%. For your information, this country has over 14,000 cancer patients.
Mr. Speaker Sir, apart from health, education is another priority sector. In my State of the Nation Address this year, I gave a comprehensive coverage of the progress we are making on infrastructure development in primary and secondary education, and also Community Technical Colleges. Let me now comment what is happening in the university sector.
University infrastructure is important because we are creating space for increasing access to university education. Infrastructure is growing in public universities at a pace never known in our time.
Go down to Chancellor College and see at least five infrastructure development projects under construction now. Chancellor College is changing its face into a modern university. We are talking about modern lecture theatres and laboratories, an ICT centre, a Business Centre and School of Economics under construction.
Go to The Polytechnic and see a four-storey complex taking shape to house an ICT hub, an open distance learning centre and a business centre. This should also help in changing the landscape of Blantyre.
Go to Mzuzu University; go to the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), and you will see government at work. Transformation has no alternative.
I wish also to inform this House that we have begun to perform architectural wonders of what is to be Mombera University in Mzimba. Preliminary works have already begun.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, these projects are happening at the same time, under this government.
PUBLIC SECTOR REFORMS
Mr. Speaker Sir, let me at this point speak about the progress we are making in public sector reforms. I will highlight a few developments.
We are developing the Public Sector Reforms Policy and the Public Service Management Policy. These policies will provide a comprehensive framework for consistent decision-making that will guide implementation of modern initiatives in line with best practices.
Government has also undertaken to establish the Malawi School of Government by merging the Malawi Institute of Management (MIM) and Staff Development Institute (SDI). Our goal is to strengthen training for leadership and management in the public service. The program will also promote a culture of ethics and discipline in the public service. The bill for establishing this school is drafted and will be presented to Parliament soon.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we now have Integrated Public Service Centres in this country, and we call them Mlambe Centres. They are now operational in Lilongwe and Mangochi. In these centres, you will find all the services provided by the Post Office, Malawi Revenue Authority, Department of Immigration, Directorate of Road Traffic Services, the Registrar General, and soon, the National Registration Bureau.
We are now moving to set up Mlambe Centres in Karonga, Mwanza, Mzimba, Blantyre, Salima, Mulanje and Mzuzu in the next phase. And we have the commitment of funding from the World Bank for other 10 centres across the country.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, probably the most monumental of all reforms is the National Identity Card. This country has a national identification system which will transform the way we deliver services to the people. As I speak today, over 9 million Malawian citizens aged 16 years and above, have been registered. The cards are being delivered to the people. We have delivered on this promise.
Mr. Speaker Sir, one more movement of transformation is happening quietly in this country. We have taken services to the people. Because we have taken services closer to the people, queries and needs are attended to more promptly than ever. This Mr. Speaker, is eliminating ghost workers. This, Mr. Speaker Sir, is called achieving efficiency in public service. Let us remember the goal of public sector reforms is to achieve efficiency and effectiveness. And let me remind Malawians, that I promise what I do and I do what I promise.
Mr. Speaker Sir, while some are wasting their time claiming that nothing is happening in this country, people know better out there. I promised, Mr. Speaker, roads, and roads I will deliver.
People can see that my government is constructing not less than 10 national roads totaling more than 500 kilometres. I am not talking about the many roads we are planning to construct. I am talking about the roads we are constructing.
People can see for themselves a new tarmac road stretching for 95km on the Lilongwe Old Airport–Kwanyanda – Santhe and Kwanyanda-Kasiya Road. We are completing this road by January, 2019.
People can see the Thyolo–Makwasa –Thekerani –Makhanga Road under construction. This is road is 82-km and started in August, 2016. We are completing this road in August, 2019.
People can see new tarmac stretching for 102km on the Zomba-Jali-Phalombe-Chitakale road. We are completing this road by August 2018.
Those in the North can see construction under way on the 47km Mzuzu-Nkhata Bay road. We are completing this road by 18 April 2018.
Those in the East can see the 75km Liwonde – Mangochi Road making progress. We are completing this road by August, 2018.
The works on Karonga – Songwe started in September 2017 and that project will be completed by December 2018.
In November 2016, we started constructing Njakwa – Livingstonia Road. The project is expected to be completed by May 2020.
We are also starting the rehabilitation of M1 road from Lumbadzi towards Mzimba turn-off.
We started all these projects in my time because I want to change the face of this country forever. Except one road, we will complete all the projects within the first term of my government.
And remember, we are soon starting the much needed Tsangano-Neno-Mwanza Road. And we are also set to begin the Chingale Turn-Off to Lirangwe road.
By the time we are finish these roads, this country will no longer be the same.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, there is no doubt that we are moving forward as a country despite whatever challenges we face. Against all odds, we have achieved economic stability. Let us now hold hands and rise above stability to pursue economic growth.
Let us remember – that everyone must be accountable to someone for us to ensure equitable distribution of resources, which leads to inclusive economic growth and development.
Let us promote the spirit of patriotism, integrity and hard work for us to achieve national prosperity. Let us all rise to the occasion and stand on these pillars of progress.
We must be the first to lead by example. The people who voted for us are watching. And the people will be watching us as we conduct our business in this House. And the people will be the best judges.
Mr. Speaker Sir, let me close by underlining the importance of our responsibility in this House. As Members of Parliament, we have an important role in national development. As a country, we have reached economic stabilization. Next is about economic growth and development. Members of Parliament have a duty to pass laws that will support growth and development.
That is why I want to welcome the newly elected members to this august house.
But on a sad note, Mr. Speaker, let me express my condolences to this Honourable House and the bereaved family on the demise of Honourable Sam Ganda, who until his death on 16th May, 2017 was a Member of Parliament for Nsanje Lalanje Constituency.
Let me also once again convey my heartfelt condolences to the families of the 21 Malawi Defence Force soldiers and cadets who recently lost their precious lives in a tragic road accident on 2nd November, 2017 in Mzimba district. This is a big loss to the Malawi Defence Force and the entire nation. This was a national tragedy.
May I ask the House to join me and stand up to observe a minute of silence in honour of the departed souls? Shall we stand please!
(Minute of Silence)
May their Souls Rest in Peace!
With these remarks, Mr. Speaker, I now declare the 47th Session of Parliament officially open.
May the Almighty God bless us all.
God bless Mother Malawi
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, Sir.