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Mixed reactions over Malawi president’s state of the nation address

LILONGWE Malawi  (Xinhua) -- The State of Nation Address made by Malawian President Peter Mutharika on Friday during the opening of the 2018/19 Budget session of Parliament has received mixed reactions from commentators including opposition and international dignitaries.

In his 30-page State of the Nation Address, titled Delivering Sustainable Development, President Mutharika mentioned diverse issues including economy, mining, energy, health, education, rural development, tourism and culture, gender and women development amongst other things.

But reacting to the statement in an interview with local media at the New Parliament Building in Malawi capital, Lilongwe, leader of opposition in Parliament and President for Malawi Congress Party, Lazarus Chakwera, has described Mutharika’s address as “dreamy and illusionary” saying it shows the Malawian leader “has lost touch with the reality on the ground where the majority of Malawians are suffering.”

Chakwera said Mutharika’s address does not cleary instill hope in Malawians and explain how the leadership plans to bail Malawians out of poverty.

But the U.S. ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer said the president’s massages on issues of corruption, about Malawians having national Identity Cards and moving forward with development are important for the nation.

She, however, expressed worries over issues of drug theft in public hospitals saying it is a sign of corruption as the drugs are found at the open markets.

She said ordinary Malawian in the village needs to be vigilant enough to know when the supplies are available in public hospitals and when they have finished and be able to stand up when things have gone wrong.

According to President Mutharika his Cabinet has already approved the Pharmacy and Medicines Regulation Bill, 2018, which provides stiffer penalties for offenders in drug supplies.

Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi Kikkan Haugen, who is also the dean of the diplomatic corps and heads of diplomatic missions in Malawi observed that Mutharika touched on important areas including corruption and economic growth which is at 4 percent and expected to be at 6 percent next year.

“The president also mentioned the issue of women participating in politics which we fully support, we launched the 50-50 campaign just yesterday and it’s our hope that the 2019 election will be better from gender perspective than the 2014 elections,” said Haugen.

Emily Banda of the (Malawi) Professional Women Board said while the message is clear on the issue of women empowerment from the president, it will be nothing if the political parties in the country will not put deliberate strategies to ensure that women participate in politics.

During his speech President Mutharika said his government is taking necessary steps to ensure increased participation of women in the 2019 tripartite elections.

“We have mounted the 50-50 campaign in line with our aspirations and international agreements on gender equality and we have adequate legal and policy framework to guide implementation of gender programs and safeguard the rights of women,” said Mutharika.

Currently the Malawi Parliament has 32 women parliamentarians out of 193 parliamentarians.



Malawi president plans heavy agriculture investment

LILONGWE, (Xinhua) -- There is hope for Malawian farmers as the country’s President Peter Mutharika disclosed plans of heavy investment in the agriculture sector to make the country “an economy that withstands climate fluctuations.”

Mutharika made the statement Friday at Parliament Building in the country’s capital Lilongwe in his State of the The Nation Address when he presided over the opening of Parliamentary Session of the national budget.

Among the investments, Mutharika disclosed that Government was implementing an Agricultural Sector-Wide Approach Program with an aim to enable smallholder farmers to have access to investment capital and markets.

He said: “As part of the program, we plan to construct 4,000 kilometres of roads in order to enable our farming communities to access markets. This work began in march and as I speak, 40 contractors are already on the road upgrading rural access roads and building bridges.”

He also disclosed development of Nchalo Irrigation Scheme in the country’s Southern Region district of Nchalo where he said more investors would come in to increase value addition.

He disclosed that a new farm was already on the ground investing in aquaculture and production of biofuels from bamboos.

“We also have a major greenbelt initiative on smart irrigation targeting 24, 000 hectares and investors are set to partner with Nchalo Farmers’ Association,” he explained.

He also said the government was implementing a Shire Valley Transformation Irrigation Program funded by a loan from the World Bank which covers at least 40,000 hectares.

He said construction of the intake canals of the Shire Valley Transformation Irrigation Program would start in August.

“The complete picture of our irrigation program says one thing: Malawi’s irrigation program is going to be the biggest irrigation program in the southern African Region,” explained Mutharika.


Malawi president upbeat on country’s economy

LILONGWE Malawi (Xinhua) -- Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika Friday expressed hope about the future of the country’s economy, saying the “macro-economic outlook is now bright.”

Mutharika made the statement in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) when he presided over the official opening of the country’s 2018/2019 Parliamentary Session of National Budget.

He said despite challenges, the country’s economy has a clear direction judging from recent achievement in macro-economic stability, inflation rate reduction and a rebound in economic growth.

He said: “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has just given us a vote of confidence. This week the IMF has just approved a new Extended Credit Facility for the next three years. This means the IMF is satisfied with our economic management.

“From an import cover of two months, our import cover now stands at six months. Our local currency is now stable and predictable.

“In 2018 we expect GDP growth rate to be at 4 percent, and in 2019, we expect the growth rate to be at 6 percent.” he said.

He however decried the habit of some people using political differences to sabotage the government’s development efforts saying there was need to distinguish politics from development.


Malawi president says will not shield corruption suspects

LILONGWE Malawi (Xinhua) -- Malawi President Peter Mutharika has stressed that he will not shield anybody, including his government officials, who are suspected of corruption.

Mutharika made the remarks on Friday during the opening of the 2018/19 national budget session of Parliament at New Parliament Building in the capital, Lilongwe.

“No one is above the law. There is evidence that people in my government can be investigated and prosecuted. There is also evidence that we are containing and reducing corruption,” he said.

Budget allocations to the country’s institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau and Financial Intelligence Authority have been increased over the years to strengthen the fight against corruption, according to Mutharika.

The president revealed that the government is investigating a total of 1,009 cases of corruption and that out of those cases, 640 were completed. Of the completed cases, 143 were recommended for prosecution.

On national peace and security, the Malawi leader said his government will continue to implement measures to sustain the peace and keep the people safe.

He noted the Malawi Police Service obtained over 100 vehicles to ease mobility challenges and that this has helped increase police visibility throughout the country.


Malawi president admits power outages as challenge

LILONGWE Malawi (Xinhua) -- Malawi President Peter Mutharika on Friday admitted that power shortage is a serious challenge in the country.

Mutharika said the nation should recognized that power shortage has been a longstanding problem as over the years the country has failed to invest in the energy sector to solve it.

“You cannot solve a problem by denying it, and my statement is not a blame of the past, my statement is an explanation of the causes of our situation and what we are doing about it,” Mutharika said, reading his 32-page State of the Nation Address.

He said the country needs no less than 2,000 megawatts in order to serve households, manufacturing industry and to start serious mining.

“That is why I have directed that we must double the current power supply of 360 MW to 720 MW by 2020 and we must generate at least 1,000 MW by 2023, a thing that has made us start diversifying power generation into coal energy, wind power, solar power, gas power and expand the current hydro system by building dams,” said Mutharika.

He also said the country is working on inter-connections with neighboring countries to tap power and that within the country plans are in the pipeline to construct a dam on Shire River and another at Mpatamanga Gorge.

Mutharika’s remarks came barely a week after Malawians demonstrated and petitioned his government over poor governance and power outages to which the Malawi leader is yet to respond.


Malawi minister apologizes for attack on photojournalist

LILONGWE Malawi (Xinhua) -- Malawi Minister of Information Communications and Technology, Nicholas Dausi, has apologized to the media fraternity in the country for the beating of a local photo journalist by suspected members of the ruling Democratic Progressed Party (DPP) at Parliament on Friday.

A local photo journalist, Douglas Banda, for Blantyre Newspapers Limited, was beaten in the Parliament Chamber on Friday when he was filming a scene while the President, Peter Mutharika, was delivering State of the Nation Address.

The act was widely condemned by the country’s civil society and media organizations who called for immediate arrest of the DPP supporters, and an apology from the ruling party on the matter.

A statement from the chairperson of the Media Institute for Southern Africa Malawi Chapter, Teresa Ndanga, criticized the ruling party for the “barbaric act” and demanded an apology from the ruling DPP.

The minister assured media practitioners in Malawi of their freedom and that they should not be discouraged by what happened at Parliament on Friday.


World Vision in mass mosquito nets distribution campaign in Malawi

MANGOCHI Malawi (Xinhua) -- World Vision, an international charity organization operating in Malawi, has announced its plans to embark on a campaign of mass distribution of Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets in the country’s 28 districts to fight malaria.

World Vision Malaria Coordinator in Malawi, Cornelius Kunkeyani, briefed authorities and the local media on Friday in the lake shore district of Mangochi, saying the campaign is in line with the Global Fund financing arrangement for the 2018-2020 grants for National Malaria Control Program which World Vision Malawi will coordinate.

According to Kunkeyani, Malawi is expected to have 17.9 million people in 2018 and using the WHO recommended quantification of population, the country will need nearly 10 million mosquito nets.

“But due to the longtime that has passed since the last census was conducted in June 2008, a 10 percent buffer stock has been added to the total needed, making it about 11 million nets for the campaign,” said Kunkeyani.

He added: “Out of this amount, the Global Fund will finance procurement of 6.7 million nets while Malaria Foundation will finance the procurement of the remaining 4.3 million nets,”

The first shipment of the nets is expected to arrive in Malawi in July 2018 and distribution will start in the southern region in September and distribution in the central and northern regions will be in October and November respectively.

World Vision will use local structures to make sure that they achieve 100 percent coverage across the country, according to the coordinator.

Ministry of Health spokesperson, Joshua Malango, told the media recently during the Malaria Commemoration Day 2018 that the government was worried as sleeping under mosquito nets remained a challenge in Malawi.

“It is worrisome that some people use the nets for fishing, while other men believe that sleeping under mosquito nets can turn them impotent,” said Malango.

In his State of the Nation Address on Friday to mark the official opening of Budget Session of Parliament for 2018/2019 financial year, Malawi President Peter Mutharika disclosed that currently malaria contributes to 30 percent of all patients admitted to Malawi health facilities and 40 percent of those treated were out-patients.


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