By Macdonald Thom:
President Peter Mutharika has urged Malawians to be positive-minded as the country strives to consolidate development gains.
Mutharika has, however, said his government would be hard on perpetrators of violence, saying this is key to the preservation of peace.
In his State of the Nation Address (Sona) delivered in Parliament Friday, Mutharika said he knew “two political leaders who discussed the possibility of exploding Kamuzu Stadium” on the day of his swearing-in ceremony.
“These two political leaders have tried to recruit mercenary militias from Al-Shabaab and Congo war zone to come and create anarchy in this country. Is this the leadership we want? I have warned this nation before that, if we sit back in silence and watch this spirit growing, one day evil will rule this nation and hold us at ransom. It only takes the silence of good people for evil to triumph,” Mutharika said.
He did not mention the names of the two political leaders.
Mutharika was sworn in on May 28, a day after Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah declared him the winner of the May 21 elections.
In the Sona, Mutharika said Malawians “will defend their peace if endangered”.
“Let me warn those inciting violence. Those who attack peace should know that we shall pay any price, confront any danger, conquer any challenge to defend our precious peace. We shall defend every Malawian, protect every school child, save every life to defend this country,” he said.
Mutharika also appealed to members of Parliament to defend the country and change lives of people.
“Malawians expect us to rise above our partisan interests for us to see a new horizon to which we take this country. Our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers, farmers, fishermen, teachers, nurses…and the youth of this country expect us to rise above our differences and improve their lives,” Mutharika said.
In the Sona, entitled ‘Consolidating Our Gains for Rapid Transformation’, Mutharika highlighted his government’s plans for the nation.
On macro-economic environment, Mutharika said his government would, in the next five years, create economic autonomy by investing in production. He said due to the high growth in the agricultural sector, the economy was estimated to grow by 5 percent.
“But it will also be supported by growth across the broader economy, including mining, information and communication, financial sectors and other service industries,” he said.
He also said he expected annual inflation to decline and remain within single digit levels with an average of 8 percent.
Mutharika also said his government would continue with reforms to shore up domestic revenue. He said the government would create fiscal space to spearhead national development.
“This will be done by focusing on reducing public debt, containing expenditure and dealing with fiscal slippages. We will further consolidate systems that curb pilferage of public funds while allocating resources to priority areas. We will seal all loopholes and ensure that whoever is found stealing government funds in whatever form is brought to book,” he said.
Mutharika also said his government would continue with the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
“My government welcomes any suggestions that can help improve the programme. But I do not welcome the idea that we should stop it. Fisp will not be stopped,” he said.
The State President added that his government would improve access to university education, citing inroads being made through online and distant education.
“We have constructed centres of excellence in various parts of the country. Our next goal is to establish Malawi Open University,” he said.
Mutharika said his government planned to construct 250 health centres across the country in the next five years, saying the aim was to increase the proportion of people living within eight-kilometre (km) radius to the nearest health facility from 90 percent to 98 percent.
“In the long term, we want to further reduce the distance [from one’s home] to the nearest health centre to 5km,” he said.
On the fight against corruption, Mutharika said his government would strengthen the law by meting stiff sentences on convicts of corruption.
“I also wish to announce that we will introduce special courts to handle corruption cases. We need to expedite court cases on corruption,” he said.
Head of the European Union Delegation to Malawi, Sandra Paesen, said Mutharika’s statement “was well-balanced”.
“It clearly shows the desire of Malawi and the present opportunity to take Malawi forward. I think, building on the gains achieved, Malawi must desire transformation. Peace in Malawi is very important; development in Malawi is not just for one region but for all. So, I think the President’s speech really portrays his desire to take the whole Malawi forward, which I appreciate,”
In the statement, some of the issues he highlighted are industry development, tourism development, transport infrastructure, information and communication technology and women empowerment.