Chakwera and Chilima attending the Presidential Charity Golf
* It could have been delegated and reduce the high security of cost for attending such an expensive event
* Chakwera spent too long in the US for the UNGA for close to 25 days
* Leaving behind an economic crisis of scarcity of forex reserves, fuel scarcities all over the country
* And at a time when many Malawians are going through one of the worst high cost of living in recent memory
By Duncan Mlanjira
Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) has expressed its dismay that President Lazarus Chakwera and his Vice-President Saulos Chilima decided to participate in a golf charity fundraising event “that could have been delegated and reduce the high security of cost for attending such an expensive event”.
In a statement — entitled ‘President Chakwera Jumps Ship on the Malawi Economy’ — issued on Friday, October 14, CAMA Executive Secretary, John Kapito said they expected the President that upon arrival from the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to immediately start addressing critical challenges affecting the country.
But “we were shocked to see both the President and his Vice at a golf charity fundraising event that could have been delegated and reduce the high security cost.”
The Presidential Charity Golf had already raised K270 million from the targeted K200 million with contributions from various corporate companies and other well-wishers but the President and his deputy pitched up to play the game at Lilongwe Golf Club.
CAMA says President Chakwera spent too long in the US for the UNGA for close to 25 days, leaving behind an economic crisis of scarcity of forex reserves, fuel scarcities all over the country and at a time when many Malawians are going through one of the worst high cost of living in recent memory.
“The President left the country at a time Malawians needed his leadership to address the serious economic and social challenges the economy is going through,” Kapito said.
“The President with his large delegation took and swept almost every dollar available on the market for activities that he could have conducted with a small number of people for a shorter period considering the cost implications of the trip.”
It was reported — but not officially confirmed — that over US$21,000 was being spent on allowances per day for Chakwera delegation of 37 people, who were receiving US$560 (about K580,000) each per day in allowances with ministers receiving US$900 (nearly K1 million) per day for 24 days.
The reports said normally, many members of Chakwera’s delegation were supposed to receive US$280 (about K290,000) per day and ministers were required to receive US$450 (about K465,000) per day but the allowances were doubled because of a rise in cost of living in New York.
Several critics — including former President Peter Mutharika as well as CAMA — had condemned the government from undertaking the trip to UNGA in the middle of an economic crisis in Malawi.
Kapito further contends in the statement that Chakwera “is now back and has found an economy much worse than before he left for UNGA — the same lack of forex, no fuel and more queues at filling stations and now many industries are closing and shutting down production due to lack of forex, electricity and fuel”.
“We expected the President immediately upon arrival after staying out that long to start immediately addressing critical challenges affecting the country. We believe the workload waiting for him must be huge.
“Unfortunately, instead of him engaging his key economic advisors and technocrats — and finding solutions to challenges faced by Malawians — he has prioritized attending to functions that have no impact to address the macro/micro economic challenges affecting the lives of many Malawians.
“While we don’t underrate the importance of the fundraising activities and other events, we believe that these are activities that the President can delegate considering the current status of the economy and focus on the key challenges affecting the country like lack of forex, fuel, electricity and food that Malawians can’t get from the market.”
He added that Malawians are expecting the President to explain his economic strategies and plans in order to end the current economic crisis and suffering Malawians are going through.
“Mr. President, the challenges facing Malawians now cannot just be wished away, this is not the time for the President to sit back and hope that all the problems facing this country will be sorted out by borrowing from multilateral and bilateral donors.
“As a country, we need to find quick domestic solutions that will reduce the challenges affecting Malawians, who are tired of being asked to be patient when you, Mr. President and the people around you, are refusing to be patient as you continue wasting public money on unnecessary and less important functions such as travels both domestic and international.
“You are unwilling to share the burden that the rest of Malawians are going through as you continue with your unnecessarily public money wastage.”
President Chakwera was further chastised that he “must be ashamed to see many industries closing down, many Malawians losing jobs under his watch and he has no clue how to address these serious economic blunders”.
“The President hopes that the economic and social challenges faced by Malawians will be resolved by themselves without providing leadership and solutions on the current poor state of the economy.
“Mr. President, you look like a defeated man, you have thrown in the towel very quickly. Malawians are convinced you have nothing left that can change the current situation.
“Consumers have lost confidence in you and it’s doubtful if you can improve their welfare as observed by your actions. Everyone is convinced you are just waiting for an opportunity to go.
“Our advice to you, Mr. President, is to jack up or go,” signed off Kapito, who has of late made several calls for Chakwera’s administration to quickly solve the country’s economic crisis.