Broke #Malawi splurges $4 mln on Vehicles for 35 Cabinet Ministers

President Banda is facing growing dissent as her reforms bite
President Banda is facing growing dissent as her reforms bite
Malawi’s cash strapped government has spent around US$4 million (MK1.6 billion) on a new fleet of 4 wheel drive Toyota Prado TX models for 35 cabinet ministers.
At current market prices, a Toyota Prado TX at Toyota Malawi is going at around $115,000 (MK46 million) inclusive import duty.
The splurge on the SUVs comes amidst painful economic reforms that are impacting on 65 percent of the 14 million people living below the poverty line. It also comes at a time when the poor southern African nation’s public hospitals have run out of essential medicines and many people are going hungry, not because of food shortages, but because of soaring food prices.
The Ministry of Finance last week justified the purchase saying it is replacing the old fleet of Mercedes Benz cars which has been costly to maintain.
“The procurement of these vehicles is in line with the Government circular of 2012, where among other things Government directed that Ministers should use vehicles that are cheaper to run and maintain,” said Nations Msowoya, a Treasury spokesman.
“In line with the same circular, the new vehicles will replace the Mercedes which are currently being used by Ministers. To recover the costs of Mercedes the Government will later sell them,” he added.
As per the conditions of service for sitting cabinet ministers in Malawi, the Mercs will most likely be sold to them at 10 percent of its original purchase price provided that it’s not less than 5 years.
President Joyce Banda, who came to power in April last year after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, is implementing an austerity budget to make right a sputtering economy.
She has cut her salary by 30 percent, she is selling the presidential jet bought by her mercurial predecessor and promised to sell of the Mercedes Benz because of the huge cost of maintaining them.
But her critics said this week that spending such amounts on SUVs when government is failing to attend to other pressing matters is not prudent.
“ Spending over MK1b will have a bearing not only on the cash flow position of the government, but also on the forex reserves as the new vehicles though bought through a local dealer, will have to be imported,” said Henry Kachaje, an independent commentator.
“Although the initiative is commendable, the timing may not be correct considering the fact that the country is still going through some pains of economic recovery process,” he said.