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Malawi’s finance minister prioritises education in budget allocation

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Malawi’s Finance Minister, Felix Mlusu designated education as a priority sector in the country’s development programmes, as he unveiled a 2.9 billion-dollar budget for the 2020/21 financial year.

Presenting his financial outline in Parliament on Friday, 11 September 2020, Mlusu allocated 514.5 million dollars, equating to approximately 21.6 percent of the budget, to the education sector. This translates to 5.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).

The minister said the allocation to education would cater for salaries of teachers, operational costs of primary and secondary schools, and pay for development projects in the sector. Agriculture, once considered a priority in previous budgets, came second with a 474 million dollars, approximately 19.9 percent of the budget, allocated to it. This represents five percent of GDP.

The minister said his government intends to spend part of the agriculture sector’s budget in implementing the newly introduced Affordable Input Programme (AIP). The programme is targeted at 4.2 million poor farming families who are expected to access subsidised fertilisers and maize seeds. The objective of AIP, a pledge by the Tonse Alliance government of President Lazarus Chakwera during campaigns for elections held in June, is to boost food production in the next farming season,.

Malawi has had subsidised fertiliser and seed programmes in the past six years, but the harvests fell short of food self-sufficiency among the targeted farmers. This left over two million people in need of food aid this year alone.

The country’s troubled health sector, which has been limping along due to shortages of drugs, was allocated 273.5 million dollars, taking 11.5 percent of the budget or 2.9 percent of the GDP. The 2020/21 budget has increased by 22.9 percent from the 2019/20 total budget of 2.3 billion dollars, which had a deficit of 742.3 million dollars at the end of the financial year, according to Mlusu.

The minister noted that the outbreak of COVID-19 affected the performance of the previous budget, hence the deficit that is being reflected in the current outline. Mlusu also noted that the country’s revenues had substantially declined amid the increased need for resources to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

During the same period, monthly tax revenue collections dropped by nearly 11 percent when compared to revenue collections during the pre-COVID-19 period.

Parliament is scheduled to meet on Monday, 14 September 2020, to debate the budget statement before approval.

-APA

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