Finance Minister Unveils K 1,504 Trillion Budget

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe Friday presented a K 1,504 billion budget at Parliament in Lilongwe.

The 2018/19 budget is the fifth and last budget for the House to consider which the Minister said has been designed in the context of international, regional and domestic economic developments.

“The underpinnings of this budget is a focus on robust economic growth as the main goal of economic management alongside the maintenance of macroeconomic stability for robust, inclusive and sustainable growth,” he said

Gondwe outlined that,” In the medium to long term, Government’s economic goal is founded on common aspirations of Malawians that the country should move out of a group of countries that is considered to be the poorest in the world.”

He highlighted that the economy was at its worst ever triggered by a financial hemorrhage of the Government that left its coffers empty and led the donors to boycott this country.

“Therefore, in order to maintain the level of its deliverance of services to the people, the Government went into a huge domestic borrowing and abandoned sizeable payments to its creditors in the private sector,” Gondwe observed.

The Minister disclosed that it is expected that the European Union (EU) would disburse an unknown amount of budget support during the course of the 2018/19 fiscal year and this has not been included in this budget.

The Education sector has been allocated close to K166 billion (allocations to the Universities and to the local authorities which control primary schools have been added to the education vote).

The second is the Agricultural sector with an expenditure amount of K151 billion followed by the Health sector at K86.7billion and ranks third.

The Minister said that in order to ensure that there is adequate food for the affected households, Government has allocated K20 billion towards maize purchases and distribution as he recalled that in the 2017/18 farming season, some parts of the country experienced dry spells and infestation of fall army worms, two unexpected occurrences which resulted in reduction in crop harvest of about 10 per cent.

Wages and salaries are projected at K392.0 billion (7.4 per cent of GDP), and representing a 24.3 per cent increase over the 2017/18 likely outturn saying the increase is due to 20 percent salary adjustment for junior grades and 10 percent salary for senior grades in the public service.

Pensions and gratuities budget line has been allocated K80.6 billion representing 6.0 percent increase from the 2017/18 likely outturn figure of K76.1 billion. Of the K80.6 billion, K11.4 billion is contribution to the National Pension Scheme for newly recruited staff and officers of 35 years and below.

The Revenue and Grants are projected at K1,261 billion which is 23.6 percent of GDP and domestic revenue has been set at K1,052 billion, representing 19.7 per cent of GDP.

The Grants are programmed to reach K209 billion (3.9 percent of GDP) of which K60 billion is budget support from the World Bank.

The elections budget is estimated at K31.5 billion to cover voter registration and verification, education and outreach, election materials, vehicles and polling services. This represents the total budget for the general elections that MEC will require for the Tripartite Elections.

On Tax Revenue Measures, Gondwe announced that with immediate effect customs duties on cesspool and water bowsers have been removed and only VAT would be applicable.

The Minister observed that Government believes that this measure would lower the costs and encourage infrastructure development, especially roads, through reduced importation costs of the capital equipment.

On tax free income bracket under Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), Gondwe said it has been increased from K30,000 to K35,000 per month in order to improve the disposable income of taxable salaried persons.

Chiefs honorarium have also been considered to be increased in the budget as follows; Village heads from K2,500 to K5,000-Group Village Heads from K5,000 to K10,000-Sub Traditional Authorities from K8,000 to K16,000-Traditional Authorities from K18,000 to K40,000-Senior Traditional Authorities from K30,000 to K60,000 and Paramount Chiefs from K50,000 to K100,000.

The Minister informed the House that the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) would continue and announced that government has allocated K41.5 billion to reach out to one million beneficiaries across the country.

The House has since adjourned until June 4, 2018 for the estimates on the Recurrent and Development Accounts for the 2018-19 Budget be referred to the Committee of the whole House to be considered vote by vote, and that thereafter they be adopted.-MANA