In what is proof of how the gains of the improving economy are trickling down to the grassroots, Government has today presented to Parliament a budget that has made generous allocations towards social and economic development programmes.
Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and Development today unveiled a pro-poor, pro-youth budget and pro-business budget which he described as “crucial to the welfare of our people.”
One of the notable achievements in the recovering of the economy has been the increase in revenue collection, to which effect domestic revenue alone will contribute K1.05 billion to the total budget pegged at K1.5 billion.
The budget has therefore been designed to ensure Malawians benefit from the recovery. Government has therefore given generous attention to youth, the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) and the decent housing subsidy programme both of which target the poor.
Both FISP and housing subsidy programme have seen significant increases in budget allocations and number of beneficiaries.
Youth employment has been at the heart of President Peter Mutharika, for which he initiated the highly-hailed community technical college programme and expansion of public university infrastructure to increase access and improve quality of public university education.
To ensure that youths fail to enroll for university education due to lack of tuition, Government has doubled the allocation to Higher Education Loans Board from K4 billion to K8 billion.
Government has also announced additional youth development programmes. The Youth Tree Programme will employ 10,000 youths while the Youth Internship Programme will recruit 5,000 youths. These 5,000 youths will be placed in government departments; the objective is that they should gain knowledge, skills and ethics as a way of nurturing them for a career in the civil service and private sector.
For years now, Government has been implementing the Scholarship Fund which supports civil servants to upgrade their qualifications. In the budget has also announced a further Capacity Building Programme which targets youthful civil servants who it will support up to PhD level.
Civil servants will start taking home an improved pay check as Government has allocated funds for 20 percent salary increment for junior civil servants and 10 percent increment for junior civil servants.
The social development sectors are also set to enjoy the benefits of an improving economy as government has allocated funding for recruitment of 10,500 primary school teachers, 500 secondary school teacher and 1,000 medical staff.
Road infrastructure development has been one of the signature programmes of President Mutharika’s administration and the 2018/19 budget has announced financing to projects such as Balaka-Salima Road which has been in bad shape for years now.
Masses in rural areas will also continue to benefit from the Rural Development Programme as the budget has increased allocations towards Constituency Development Fund, District Development Fund and Local Development Fund. These windows finance local development projects such as child care centres, classroom blocks and health centre facilities.
However, to take development further down to the grassroots, Government has announced the commencement of another funding window for rural development that could service 300 Area Development Committees. It has allocated K6 billion for the fund.
In fact, the development budget has increased by 25.6 percent. Agriculture, transport, education, and health remain the major drivers of development focus and priority in terms of budget allocation.
To ensure that the economy keep growing, Government has announced it will sustain measures that have seen the lowering of inflation, ensured a stable exchange rate. These will help the private sector to invest more and boost productivity for exports, imports substitution and job creation.
In his statement, Gondwe also announced that Government will continue establishing Special Economic Zones in the country as a tool for attracting both Foreign Direct Investment and Domestic Investment into the industrial sector.