Malawi

NGO cautions on Covid-19 students

The Nation Online - 8 ore 14 min fa

Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) has cautioned government to critically assess support being given to Lilongwe Girls Secondary School students who tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe was reacting to a statement issued by the Ministry of Education on Sunday in which it justified government’s decision to keep in school 331 students who tested positive after a mass testing exercise conducted at the school.

kondowe | The Nation OnlineKondowe: What support will be provided to them?

The statement, signed by the ministry’s Principal Secretary (PS) Chikondano Mussa, states that the ministry is keeping the girls in school for easy monitoring of the situation and to prevent further transmission of the virus.

It reads in part: “From a public health perspective, government has decided to keep all students on the campus…Government will thus make sure that everyone receives the most appropriate attention when needed.”

However, while welcoming government’s decision, Kondowe called on the ministry to state clearly the type of support being given to students in general, looking at the current rate of transmission.

Chikondano Mussa | The Nation OnlineMussa: We are keeping them for easy monitoring

In his view, the government needs to look at the best mechanisms and how it is going to reach out to students travelling back to their various communities. He feared there could be a possibility that some students going back to their communities may unknowingly have Covid-19 and later transmit it to others.

He said: “Government’s idea to keep girls in school and its effort to contain the situation is commendable, if indeed girls will be provided with necessary support.

“However we need to dig deeper on what support is being given to them because we hear that they are not being attended to. Government also needs to look at the interests of students who have not yet tested positive. It also has to look at the mechanisms to ensure that those who have not tested positive should not contract the virus…”

On Friday, some parents expressed concern that students are still being kept in school amid Covid-19 infections at the campus where 137 out of 605 students tested positive.

Mussa highlighted in a statement that government will continue disinfecting learning institutions in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Since the dawn of the 2021, a new wave of covid-19 has since killed over 111 people, including Cabinet ministers and a PS within a space of one month. On a daily basis, the country is recording over 300 new cases.

President Chakwera has since ordered a temporary closure of schools and has spelled out a number of strict measures that need to be seriously followed until the situation calms down. He declared the country a State of National Disaster.

Categorie: Malawi

Csec, Isama want clarity on schools’ closure

The Nation Online - 8 ore 21 min fa

Education stakeholders have faulted President Lazarus Chakwera’s order to have schools closed for three weeks in the awake of escalating Covid-19 cases, saying the measure lacks clarity and has potential to create more problems.

Chakwera on Sunday night announced several measures to be enforced in the fight against Covid-19 among which was closure of schools for three weeks. He also directed that learners in boarding school should remain in schools to allow officials assess the severity of the Covid-19 in institutions before they can be released into communities.

school | The Nation OnlineThe CSOs want clarity on what will happen during the schools’ closure

However, the three weeks closure has not gone down well with Civic Society Education Coalition (Csec) and Independent Schools Association of Malawi (Isama) who have said that without proper interventions, sending learners home exposes them to more risks.

Isama president Joseph Patel feared that the learners have higher chances of being infected while at home than in school.

He said with the closure of schools, the learners will not be restricted on movements and will come in contact with various people who may transmit the disease to them.

“When they are in school, their movements are restricted and preventive measures are observed. The learners concentrate on school unlike when they are at home where they move about interacting with various people,” said Patel.

He added that the three weeks break was too much considering that learners are already coming from a five months break. He said such interruptions affect learners as they do not concentrate on education.

Patel said if the break is meant to disinfect schools, one week would have been enough.

The Isama president also alleged that Isama was not consulted when coming up with the measure to close schools. He said stakeholders need to make inputs in such situations.

Commenting on the issues, Csec executive director Benedicto Kondowe also feared that the learners might be exposed to other dangers apart from Covid-19.

He said the last time government closed schools, a number of girls fell pregnant and some got married. Other learners also engaged in various malpractices.

Kondowe wondered what measures have been put in placeto ensure that the learners are protected at home.

How the learners at boarding schools will get home was another cause for worry. Kondowe said most learners will have to use public transport and that puts them at risk.

“There was need for a clear action on how these learners will be managed, otherwise we will only create more problems,” said Kondowe.

Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje clarified that the essence of the three weeks closure is to interrupt transmission of the disease.

She said the general view is that learners are safe being at home than in school.

Said the minister: “In the meantime, everyone should adhere to preventive measures, starting from the learners, parents, teachers and everyone out there.

“Nobody wants to see the schools become grounds for transmission. The three weeks will help us put in place measures that can help prevent the spread of the pandemic in schools.”

On the Form 4 students, she said they will continue with their examinations, saying the country cannot afford to interrupt the process.

On the failure to consult some stakeholders, NyaLonje said Ministry of Education Principal Secretary Chikondano Mussa was better-placed to comment on the matter as she was involved in such engagements.

Categorie: Malawi

Fake injury claims soar

The Nation Online - 8 ore 25 min fa

Insurance Association of Malawi has disclosed that fake insurance claims relating to road accidents and injury claims in manufacturing industries cost them K5 billion in 2019 alone.

The association’s president Bywell Chiwoni in an interview yesterday described the scheme as a big issue and complicated, saying conspirators in the syndicate include “ambulance chasers” (people who follow up on accidents), lawyers, medical doctors and some Malawi Police Service officers.

accident | The Nation Online

He said initially, the scheme focused on road accidents, but it has now moved to manufacturing industries where some agents are planted to take up recorded personal injuries to some lawyers who file the cases to court, sometimes without the knowledge and instructions of those injured.

Chiwoni said the insurance industry, having gone through the claims’ files, also discovered that even police officers are involved as fake police reports are issued to facilitate the claims.

“Going by the 2019 assessment, it shows us that 25 to 30 percent of claims made to our member companies were bogus, which translates to the loss of K5 billion in that year alone,” he said.

Chiwoni | The Nation OnlineChiwoni: 30 percent of the claims were bogus

The association has 10 members that include eight insurance companies, one reinsurance firm and one reinsurance broker.

Said Chiwoni: “We have ambulance chasers and what we know is that when an accident occurs, there are bureaus that take details of those injured and pass them on to lawyers, sometimes without the knowledge of those injured.

“Lately, they are doing the same in the manufacturing industry—they have [designated] forms [from Ministry of Labour] which injured employees process to get their compensation. Sometimes when the insurance firms take time to pay, they take the matters to court. It’s their right and we have no problem with that.

“But what we are concerned with as insurance companies is that there are set procedures we follow without necessarily having to take the matters to court. But these procedures are ignored and some lawyers, doctors and police officers opt to take a fraudulent process, sometimes exaggerating the number of people involved or the extent of the injury.”

He said sometimes a claim, whose real cost would be K100 000, goes up to millions, and when default judgements are passed as sometimes the insurance firms are not served with summons, they see sheriffs knocking on the door.

“In a worst-case scenario, we also have our own officers in the insurance industry who are involved in these bogus claims. It’s complicated, we are working hard to get to the bottom of this and put a stop to it,” Chiwoni said.

He disclosed that some manufacturers have formed a task force to investigate the syndicate and the team was working hard to bring evidence.

National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera in an interview yesterday said police would gladly investigate the matter if given specific examples of fake police reports.

He said: “If the evidence of fake police reports is brought to us, we would know who authored them and investigate. We would also be able to investigate the other players being mentioned [lawyers and medical practitioners]. Minus that, it is very difficult to jump on the matter.”

Malawi Law Society (MLS) honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde is also on record as having told The Nation last November that her society could not act on the allegations against its members without any material to support any allegation.

She said MLS would no doubt take appropriate steps against such members if supporting materials were provided.

On the other hand,  Society of Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi is also on record as having said if the issue was being raised again by the Ministry of Labour, there was a possibility the malpractice was happening.

Ministry of Labour spokesperson Christina Mkutumula said in November that the ministry had issued a caution against the malpractice but they were concerned that the defrauding of employers and insurance companies was continuing.

The ministry had accused medical personnel and lawyers of their involvement in making unsolicited claims for injuries in the workplace.

Last month, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) appealed to professional bodies to ensure that their members are discharging their duties ethically and avoid being found on the wrong side of the law.

The ACB call came amid concerns from government that some unauthorised medical personnel continued to issue medical reports for compensation claims by injured workers under the Workers’ Compensation Act of 2000.

ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala, in response to a questionnaire, said the bureau was of the view that the professional bodies were supposed to ensure that their members act professionally.

On the same matter, some quarters have suggested that some of the lawyers concerned take their matters to a particular registry of the High Court of Malawi and specific magistrate’s courts.

Registrar of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal and High Court of Malawi Gladys Gondwe said in a response to a questionnaire in December that judge-shopping is unacceptable.

She said: “But we know there are instances where, owing to physical proximity or the quest for expeditious disposal of their matters, parties have registered matters in other registries than where they are otherwise expected to.

“With regard to the claims at hand, I am yet to ascertain if we have any formal communication from the Ministry [of Labour] or any concerned people on record.”

A private investigator, Kingston Lapukeni, who is probing the scheme on behalf of some manufacturing companies, said he needed to get clearance from his clients to officially release the report to us.

But he said his investigations show how some lawyers and their agents conspire to allegedly defraud insurance companies and employers.

Lapukeni once worked for Reserve Bank of Malawi as chief internal auditor, Ministry of Finance as head of budget and monitoring, Malawi Police Service as investigations consultant and Malawi Revenue Authority as director of tax audit and investigations.

He holds a bachelor of social sciences from University of Malawi and is currently a managing director of Blantyre-based Private Investigations Consultancy.

PHOTOGRAPHS: NATION

He feared there could be a possibility that some students going back to their communities may unknowingly have Covid-19 and later transmit it to others.

He said: “Government’s idea to keep girls in school and its effort to contain the situation is commendable, if indeed girls will be provided with necessary support.

“However we need to dig deeper on what support is being given to them because we hear that they are not being attended to. Government also needs to look at the interests of students who have not yet tested positive. It also has to look at the mechanisms to ensure that those who have not tested positive should not contract the virus…”

On Friday, some parents expressed concern that students are still being kept in school amid Covid-19 infections at the campus where 137 out of 605 students tested positive.

Mussa highlighted in a statement that government will continue disinfecting learning institutions in a bid to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Since the dawn of the 2021, a new wave of covid-19 has since killed over 111 people, including Cabinet ministers and a PS within a space of one month. On a daily basis, the country is recording over 300 new cases.

President Chakwera has since ordered a temporary closure of schools and has spelled out a number of strict measures that need to be seriously followed until the situation calms down. He declared the country a State of National Disaster.

Categorie: Malawi

Covid-19 initiative raises K18.3m in 2 days

The Nation Online - 8 ore 28 min fa

A fundraising initiative for urgent Covid-19 relief in Malawi led by a France-based Malawian writer Stanley Onjezani Kenani has raised K18.3 million in its second day.

Kenani set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for medical supplies and equipment for frontline medical workers and patients, including oxygen cylinders, oxygen pressure regulators, medicines and personal protective equipment (PPE).

kenani | The Nation OnlineKenani: We cannot just watch the house burning

Writing on the GoFundMe page, Kenani said Malawi is facing a crisis where hospitals are overwhelmed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: “We cannot just watch the house burning and shout instructions at firefighters, save this, save that, no. Let us run into the fire and save what we can.”

He said the supplies will be donated to Queen Elizabeth, Zomba, Kamuzu and Mzuzu central hospitals.

Writing on his Facebook page on Monday, Kenani said the fundraising initiative, which started on Sunday, was triggered by a social media call by late Paul Msoma who was admitted to Kamuzu Central Hospital for Covid-19 and raised an alarm about shortage of flow meters at the facility.

Msoma succumbed to Covid-19 on Monday.

Kenani started the ball rolling by donating K100 000. The GoFundMe page is found on the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/70p2cpk?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet.

The target is to raise 50 000 euro (about K49.5 million) and by press time yesterday, 2 265 euro (about K2.2 million) had been donated. The rest of the donations were made through mobile money platforms, mostly from Malawians.

Among those who have donated, according to Kenani, are families who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, frontline health workers, a Cabinet minister, pastors and other citizens who refused to be identified as well as Malawians in diaspora.

President Lazarus Chakwera last week declared a State of National Disaster and appealed for help amid escalating Covid-19 cases in the country.

On Sunday, the President announced stiffer measures to contain the spread of the virus, including the closure of schools and limiting the number of public gatherings to 50 or less.

As of Sunday, 12 470 Malawians had tested positive for Covid-19 with 314 deaths and 6 036 recoveries registered.

Categorie: Malawi

Doctors sound SOS on health workers

The Nation Online - 8 ore 40 min fa

As the country’s health facilities continue to register a surge in Covid-19 admissions, the Society of Medical Doctors has called for volunteer health workers to beef up the system marred by inadequate staff.

The call comes barely a day after President Lazarus Chakwera admitted that the country’s health system does not have the capacity to treat the increasing numbers of Covid-10 patients, a situation he partly blamed on decades of neglect and plunder.

covid | The Nation OnlineHealth workers are playing a crucial role in the Covid-19 response

The President further ordered the recruitment of 1 380 health workers in four different categories in an effort to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

But a press statement issued yesterday signed by Society of Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi says they need volunteers, particularly clinicians, nurses and laboratory personnel that are either not employed or have free time, to work at the equivalent grade allowance in Covid-19 centres in central hospital isolation wards and new field hospitals to be set up in Blantyre and Lilongwe.

Reads the statement in part: “Those willing to help should be fully registered with their regulatory bodies, they should be without a comorbidity that could increase their risk of developing severe Covid-19 and if they are employed, they should have a written permission letter for this initiative from their employers.”

In an interview yesterday, Mithi said the country is in a crisis and the health system is overwhelmed.

On the recruitment of 1 380 health workers, Mithi said although the move will help ease the burden, it will not solve the current challenges.

He said: “This is because when the health workers test positive, they withdraw from the system, creating more gaps. The system needs an additional 4 000 medical personnel for it to cope and have enough reservoir.”

For starters, Mithi said although every district needs eight medical doctors, Malawi has a shortage of one or just two doctors per district while central hospitals have only 10 percent of the required doctors.

“Government should make a deliberate approach to absorb all the idle health workers who have not been employed,” he said.

According to Mithi, the pandemic has exposed how weak Malawi’s health system is, whose challenges include the shortage of medical personnel as well as inadequate supplies of oxygen and other equipment including personal protective equipment needed for the fight against the disease.

“Covid-19 has taught us to invest in our nation’s health system,” he said.

Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo in a separate interview also admitted that the health system is overwhelmed.

Chakwera on Sunday unveiled a multi-billion kwacha and multi-pronged strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, including the recruitment of additional medical personnel and procuring medical recruitments and infrastructure. He also said new temporary hospitals will be constructed in all major cities to decongest major hospitals with health facilities in stadiums and the State House in Zomba.

Prior to announcing the strategy, the President last Tuesday declared a State of National Disaster, asking well-wishers to support the country’s Covid-19 response.

Categorie: Malawi

FAM shuts down amid Covid cases

The Nation Online - 8 ore 47 min fa

Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has temporarily shut down Mpira Village in Blantyre for two weeks amid Covid-19 cases among its staff.

The association’s 42 secretariat staff at the Chiwembe offices underwent Covid-19 tests over the weekend and eight tested positive for the virus.

BACK | The Nation OnlineMpira House

The development brings the number of Covid-19 positives cases at Mpira Village to nine after competitions and communication director Gomezgani Zakazaka also tested positive last week.

FAM general secretary Alfred Gunda confirmed the development in an interview yesterday, saying the closure will enable them to disinfect the premises while those affected are on 14 days isolation.

However, Gunda said they had already planned to have all staff work from home even before some tested positive for the virus.

He said: “Even before Mr. Zakazaka tested positive, we had planned to have people working from home once Covid-19 cases started increasing.

“However, once he tested positive, we had to have all staff members tested because he was in contact with some of them who, in turn, were also in contact with others.

“After the results came positive for more staff members, it was obvious that we needed to fast-track the shutdown for two weeks to pave the way for disinfection and send those affected on isolation.”

However, Gunda said they will have a few members of staff working from home on strategic matters.

“We will maintain a very lean staff working from home on strategic matters and only come to office when it is absolutely necessary.  Otherwise, all meetings will be done virtually,” he said.

The FA’s shutdown comes just a day after government announced more strict Covid-19 prevention guidelines restricting public meetings to 50 from 100.

However, Super League of Malawi says this will not affect the league which is already in full swing.

Categorie: Malawi

2021 Sadc Media awards open for entries

The Nation Online - 9 ore 2 min fa

The Ministry of Information has announced that the 2021 Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Media Awards are now open for entries.

In a statement issued yesterday, the ministry says the awards—in the categories of print, radio, television and photo journalism—were launched on October 30 2021 by Minister of Information Gospel Kazako.

kazako 2 | The Nation OnlineLaunched the awards: Kazako

Reads the statement in part: “The Sadc Media Awards are open to journalists from Sadc member States. The first prize winners will receive their prizes and certificates on the margins of the 41st Sadc Summit of Heads of State and Government, which Malawi will host in August 2021.”

The statement further states that the competition is open to entries from Sadc nationals published between January 1 and December 31 2020.

According to the statement, entry forms can be obtained from www.ict.gov.mw or www.sadc.int and completed forms must be submitted by February 28 2021 to the National Adjudication Committee on the email sadcmediaawards@information.gov.mw.

The Sadc Media Awards were established in 1996 to recognise the best media work in disseminating information on Sadc to support the process of regional co-operation and integration in the areas of infrastructure, economy, water, culture, sports, agriculture, social, education and entertainment, among others.

The first prize winner in each category receives $2 500 while the runner-up gets $1 000. The monetary prizes will be accompanied by a certificate signed by the Sadc chairperson.

Previous Malawian winners of the award include  Malawi Broadcasting Corporation’s Vincent Khonyongwa (radio category), Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS)’s  Winstone Mwale and Times Group’s the late Bonex Julius for radio and photo categories, respectively, Times Group’s Alick Ponje and ZBS’s Mallick Mnela.

Categorie: Malawi

Referral hospitals call for speedy support

The Nation Online - 9 ore 3 min fa

Some referral health facilities in the country have appealed for support of oxygen plants to help in treatment of Covid-19 patients.

The hospitals, Zomba Central Hospital (ZCH), Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) and Mzuzu Central Hospital  (MCH), also say they have high vacancy rates, lack of drugs and inadequate space for drug stores, among some challenges affecting quality service delivery.

Joshua Malango | The Nation OnlineMalango: We are addressing challenges

ZCH principal anesthetist Dr Delia Mabedi, QECH hospital director Samson Mndolo and MCH director Francis Sinyiza raised the concerns in separate interviews.

Mabedi said the hospital needs additional staff to help provide quality service to patients.

She said:  “Currently, we don’t have a chief hospital administrator, among other key positions.

“We are grateful to the Global Fund for assisting us with some human resource and laboratory storage boxes, among others, but we appeal for further support where possible.”

ZCH caters for Mulanje, Phalombe, Machinga, Chiradzulu, Mangochi and Balaka.

On his part, Mndolo said  the hospital needs technicians and clinicians, infrastructure and other essential medication to achieve quality service delivery.

He said: “The facility is now overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients who need oxygen to the point that the gas plant we have is proving inadequate.”

According to Mndolo, QECH caters for Nsanje, Chikwawa, Neno, Mwanza and Blantyre districts.

Sinyiza said Global Fund installed solar panels that have enhanced service delivery by dealing with power outages. He said the facility lacks some diagnostics in the laboratory.

“Presently, samples are sent to Lilongwe at UNC Project at a cost and this is unsustainable,” he said.

Like his Zomba Central Hospital counterpart, Sinyiza expressed concern with limited resources to finance the procurement of oxygen cylinders from suppliers to support Covid-19 patients.

“Each Covid-19 patient uses two gas cylinders daily, pegged at K63 000. We need oxygen gas plants, especially this time when there is a surge in Covid-19 cases that are claiming lives at a very fast rate,” he said.

Eight ZCH staff tested positive during the first wave of Covid-19 from April to December 2020 while 81 staff tested positive at MCH which caters for people from Chitipa, Karonga, Rumphi, Mzimba and Nkhata Bay districts.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Joshua Malango said the ministry is doing all it can to address the challenges in the health facilities. 

Recently, the Global Fund, which has been funding malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and Aids care in the country, intervened in Covid-19 by providing drugs and other essentials.

Categorie: Malawi

Most Lilongwe Girls learners asymptomatic—ministry

The Nation Online - 9 ore 16 min fa

The Ministry of Health says a majority of the  311 Lilongwe Girls Secondary School students who tested positive for Covid-19 are asymptomatic and should recover within a few days.

The ministry said this in response to concerns from some parents that their wards have been put in isolation in dormitories where they are not receiving any medication.

Lilongwe Girls Secondary School 1 | The Nation OnlineA mobile storage unit set up by World Food Programme at Lilongwe Girls Secondary School for additional isolation space

According to a press statement issued yesterday, signed by Ministry of Education Principal Secretary Chikondano Mussa, only 16 students are showing mild signs and symptoms of the disease while the rest are asymptomatic and doing well.

The statement further says out of 605 students that were tested, 311 tested positive for Covid-19, representing 51 percent while out of the 38 members of staff tested, five tested positive and are also asymptomatic.

The ministry has since said it will still keep the learners in school to curb the spread of the virus.

Reads the statement in part: “It is better for the public that the students remain on campus. If the students were released to go home, they would pose a very high [risk of] spreading the virus wider and faster wherever they go, including in their homes and communities where they may transmit the infection to their elderly parents and guardians.”

According to the statement, the school has since been disinfected and the exercise will continue.

The statement further says that as the students are together, they give moral support to each other, along with their teachers and other health professionals who are constantly on the campus.

Government has assured concerned parents and guardians that it will ensure that every students receives the most appropriate attention.

In an interview, the school’s Parents Teachers Association (PTA) chairperson Neverson Banda said while most of the children are indeed doing well and are asymptomatic, the school management will from today put them on a special diet that includes vegetables, fruits and an egg a day.

But speaking in an interview on Sunday, Lilongwe District Health Office spokesperson Richard Mvula said the learners are not on any medication because they are asymptomatic.

“The students are not sick, they only tested positive for Covid-19,” he said, adding the DHO was providing psycho-social support for them.

Mvula said they are working with the PTA in sharing information with the student’s parents and guardians where necessary.

The students were tested last week after 19 students complained of mild symptoms.

Categorie: Malawi

RBM upbeat on inflation outlook

The Nation Online - 9 ore 29 min fa

The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) says the country’s inflation outlook remains favourable owing to a surplus in maize output last year and a forecast of a similar trend this year.

RBM spokesperson Onelie Nkuna said this in the context of a latest report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (Ifpri) report, which showed that maize prices rose by six percent in December 2020 alone.

rbm e1457942010839 | The Nation OnlineRBM head quarters

The Ifpri maize outlook and supply update showed  that the grain prices, currently at an average price of K200 per kilogramme (kg) or K10 000 per 50 kg bag, are two percent higher than the previous month (November) and are the highest in Southern African Development Community markets.

In a written response on Friday, Nkuna said the increase in maize prices registered in December 2020 was seasonal, highlighting that maize prices were generally stable in 2020 and even lower compared to the levels witnessed in 2019, a reflection of a good harvest in the last season. 

She said: “This trend will likely continue into 2021 as the country has enough maize supplies until the next harvest. You may recall that the country produced 3.8 million tonnes of maize last year, which is higher compared to the country’s maize requirement of 3.1 metric tonnes, indicating surplus production in the year.”

Maize, as part of the food component, has a direct impact on the country’s inflation rate as it accounts for 45.2 percentin the Consumer Price Index, which is an aggregate basket of goods and services for computing inflation.

The country’s year-on-year headline inflation between January and November 2020 averaged 8.7 percent, which is way below the average price recorded during the same period in 2019.

Categorie: Malawi

IMF head, economist differ on spending

The Nation Online - 9 ore 34 min fa

A university of Malawi Chancellor College economist has differed with the head of International Monetary Fund (IMF) who has advised policymakers worldwide to embrace more spending to help revive their shuttered economies in the face of Covid-19.

Speaking at Russia’s Annual Gaidar Economic Forum on Friday, IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva made it clear that her desire is for governments to up their spending, saying a synchronised approach internationally was the best for growth.

Georgieva | The Nation OnlineGeorgieva: Spend a little bit more

Malawi is among 190 member countries of the IMF and specifically, the country officially joined as a member of the global lender on July 19 1965.

She said: “In terms of policies for right now, very unusual for the IMF, starting in March I would go out and I would say: ‘please spend’. Spend as much as you can and then spend a little bit more.”

“I continue to advocate for monetary policy accommodation and fiscal policies that protect the economy from collapse at a time when we are on purpose restricting both production and consumption.”

But reacting to Georgieva’s remarks, Gowokani Chijere-Chirwa yesterday expressed fear that such a call could lead Malawi into a “trap” to get more loans from the fund and other multilateral lenders.

He said the country can only come up with a substantial fiscal stimulus by borrowing; hence, a vicious cycle of contracting loans.

Said Chijere-Chirwa: “I am not disputing the need for more fiscal stimulus. That is what developed countries are already doing. So, they want us to use fiscal stimulus, also? A thing they have told us not to do since 1987 when Saps [Structural Adjustment Policies] came in. Isn’t this a trap?

“Where are we going to get the money? Definitely, they will give us loans or their sister, World Bank, will do so. We will eventually spend more up to what extent ? They want us to spend up to infinity?”

IMF is traditionally known for pushing for tight or contractionary fiscal policies which involve expenditure cuts or raising taxes.

“Definitely this is a trap in a crisis because we will use fiscal stimulus by borrowing from them.Hence, a vicious cycle of loans forever,” said Chijere-Chirwa.

In his reaction yesterday, Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda agreed with the IMF narrative, saying tstimulus packages have played a significant role in keeping economies and businesses afloat in times of pandemics and economic recessions.

But he said for a government to use fiscal stimulus packages in the IMF way, it would require availability of fiscal space or government capacity to do so financially, adding that   government must have operated a surplus budget.

“This is not the case for us and government revenues have substantially declined due to the pandemic,” he said.

The IMF call comes at a time Malawi’s public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product has reached 65 percent and is projected to hit 78 percent this year, with 42 percent of external loans alone, about $1 billion, contracted from the IMF’s sister institution, the World Bank through International Development Association (IDA).

The call also comes at a time the 2020/21 National Budget is yawning, with fiscal balance estimated at K755 billion, showing expenditure needs for the country keep rising.

Categorie: Malawi

Budget deficts to persist—economists

The Nation Online - 9 ore 46 min fa

Economists say the slowdown in economic activities occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to dampen revenue collection in the short to medium-term, resulting in budget deficits.

The economists were reacting to the K85.7 billion budget deficit which Treasury recorded in November 2020, according to the Reserve Bank of Malawi’s latest figures, largely due to lower-than-expected revenue collection.

front budget flt | The Nation Online

The figures released on Friday show that Treasury raised K93.7 billion in November 2020 which was dwarfed by the K179.4 billion expenditure, creating a deficit of K85.7 billion.

The November budget deficit—expenditure exceeding revenue—was far worse compared to the K5.2 billion shortfall recorded in October.

Reads the RBM November Monthly Economic Review Report: “The outcome during the month under review was as a result of a decrease in both domestic revenue collection and foreign receipts.

“In the month [November], government recorded a 26.4 percent decrease in revenue collections while expenditures increased by 35.4 percent.”

In an interview on Sunday, economic statistician Alick Nyasulu said there has been a slowdown in economic activity since the onset of Covid-19 in April 2020 and this will entail lower revenues than expected.

He said: “Expenses will continue to rise to provide key services and we should anticipate an increased budget deficit. There might be inflationary pressures and this trajectory is expected in view of a weakening kwacha.”

On his part, Ben Kaluwa, an economics professor at Chancellor College, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, advised government to strengthen expenditure management.

He said: “With a narrow fiscal space, expenditure prioritisation on domestic resources is key.

“The fiscal deficits will keep on recurring and this indicates more pressure for domestic borrowing which is being exerted on the domestic market.” The RBM report further said domestic revenues in the month under review declined by 17.3 percent to K83.6 billion while foreign receipts declined by 61.6 percent to K10.1 billion.

Under domestic revenue collection, tax revenue collections recorded a decline of 19 percent at K18.4 billion to K78.4 billion.

Categorie: Malawi

Govt, Sulom contradict

The Nation Online - 12 ore 2 min fa

Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Charles Mwansambo yesterday contradicted Sulom over its claims that the reduced public gatherings from 100 to 50 will exclude football players on the pitch.

In his address to the nation on Sunday evening, President Lazarus Chakwera announced that gatherings had been reduced to 50 as part of a multi-pronged strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Responding to a question on whether the reduction would affect the top-flight league matches in terms of logistics and planning, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) president Tiya Somba-Banda yesterday said: “Games will proceed as 50 is exclusive of players who are on a separate field of play.”

However, Mwansambo, who is also a member of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, dismissed the Sulom president’s assertion.

He said: “The gazette is talking about gatherings. People tend to twist things to suit their intentions and interests.

“The definition of the guidelines is that gatherings should not exceed 50 at a particular place whether at a football match, church or anywhere.

“If they need clarification, they should contact the Ministry of Youth and Sports.”

Reacting to this, Somba-Banda said: “Let us wait for the gazette as it will stipulate to the detail.”

But Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Covid-19 Task Force chairperson Chimango Munthali, who is also the association’s executive committee member, said they will wait for the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 to give them clear guidelines following the reduced figure.

He said: “We have been in touch with the presidential Task Force to give us a guidance on the gazetted documentation and from there we’ll know whether football will be affected or not because there are different interpretations.”

Under the current arrangement, teams are given a slot of 30 people each, translating to 60 for two teams.

The 30 comprise 20 players, seven technical staff and three officials from each team.

Nyasa Big Bullets chief administration officer Albert Chigoga said the reduced figure on gatherings will pose a challenge to all stakeholders, in particular clubs.

“We want to see how Sulom and FAM are going to work out the figures with the reduced figure.

“They are yet to get in touch with us on the way forward, but it is obvious that it is going to be a challenge… It’s a tricky situation,” he said.

Two weeks ago, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 reinstated a restriction on public gatherings to 100, a development which led to spectators being barred from watching matches.

Categorie: Malawi