Mr. Speaker, Sir,
I do not come to deliver a State of the Nation Address. That has its own time and day. I come here to open the 47th Session of Parliament. Above all, I am here to ask: why are we here?
Parliament is an important part of Government. Parliament is an important part of the people. Parliament is a cornerstone of democracy. But Parliament is not, and should never consider itself bigger than Government.
As Parliament, the first reason of existence is, as we say, “to make laws.” But more precisely, we are here to enact legislation for the good of the nation. We enact the laws that have been made in a collective process. Indeed, Parliament cannot, and does not make laws single-handedly. Making laws is our shared responsibility between the Executive and Parliament.
The second reason of our existence is to represent the people. We are here to act on behalf of our voters and citizens. And how many of us truly represent the will of the people? How many of us consult the people we represent?
I have seen times when Members of Parliament represent their parties more than the people. I have seen times when Members of Parliament frustrate Government business that is meant to serve the very people we claim to represent. And I ask again: why are we here?
The third reason why we exist as Parliament is to maintain oversight of the
Executive on behalf of the people of Malawi. It is critical to hold the Executive accountable. But who holds us accountable? As I will be underlining later in this speech, in any human society – everyone must be accountable to someone else.
It is in performing the above roles that we become part of Government. Yes, Government is incomplete without Parliament. And Parliament cannot exist without the Executive and the Judiciary.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to emphasize that we must avoid the hubris we sometimes suffer – the political hubris of thinking that we are more important than the rest of Government. Such political pride can be birth of the tragedy of democracy.
We are here for the people. This Session will only be meaningful if we all remember that we are here to represent the people.
Far too often Mr. Speaker, we meet here to flex our political muscles. This is not a house for political posturing. This is not our house. Parliament is the house of the people. We are here on the principle of representing the people.
On that principle Mr. Speaker Sir, let me speak about matters that affect the people as we sit here. Let me speak about economic performance, energy situation, food security, public health, public sector reforms and national security.
Let me say from the outset Mr. Speaker, Sir, that as a nation, we are making steady and positive progress in most sectors of our economy, in spite of the challenges that we are currently facing. All we need now is for us to work together to sustain and build on the achievements that have been gained so far if we are to realize the sustainable and inclusive growth that we, as a nation, aspire.
For this reason, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have titled my Statement “Rising above Macroeconomic Stability.”
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we have already laid the foundation for sustainable medium-term growth through the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (MGDS III), which Government recently adopted after wide consultations with all relevant stakeholders. The MGDS III will be our overarching medium-term development strategy for the next five years. The implementation of the Strategy will economically transform the nation and make us a productive, competitive and resilient nation.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, there is no point in denying reality because we want to politick for the sake of politicking. The reality is: we have done well in economic performance in the last three years.
In three years, inflation has fallen from 24 percent to 8.4 percent as of September 2017. Interest rates have dramatically fallen and our base lending rate also declined to 18 percent by July, 2017. Our exchange rate has been stable for over two years. Further, preliminary forecast for 2017 economic growth rate is likely to be higher than the 5.5 percent that was estimated earlier. In fact, the rate of growth could be the highest in the Sadc region. And Malawi is fast rising on the global doing business index.
We found a broken economy. We have achieved economic stability. We are now set to rise above economic stability. We are set for economic growth. We are set to rise again as a country.
Mr. Speaker Sir, let us agree that it is a result of sound economic management that we achieved these phenomenal results. Let it go down in history that we are a country that achieved economic stability through national disasters.
We reversed the devastating effects of the infamous Cashgate. We defied floods. We survived seasons of drought. We defied hunger. We fed our people for two years of hunger. Above all, we ran this country without budgetary aid. My Government proved that Malawi can achieve economic independence. And that’s what Malawians want. As for us, we have been tested and tried but we prevailed! The story of our economy tells it all.
Those who oppose for the sake of opposing tell us that inflation is being fixed. And I ask: was the inflation also being fixed when it was rising? They tell us: inflation is falling because we banned maize export. And I ask: why did inflation begin to fall when there was national hunger and we were importing maize instead of exporting?
Mr. Speaker Sir, this denial of our progress is testimony that this country has people who oppose my Government for the sake of opposing. This country has politicians who don’t wish Malawians well. They are so much obsessed with scoring cheap political points that they would rather see Malawi failing than prospering.
In their political agenda, they want to see our economy failing so that they should say the Government has failed. In their agenda, they have been opposing our banning of maize export because they want us to export all the maize. They would want this country to go hungry again and see Malawians suffering so that they can say my Government has failed.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we must never regret that we restricted the export of maize. Maize is the life of our people. Exporting all our maize is exporting our life. Our goal was to make sure that we have enough maize in our reserves to feed Malawians in case the next harvest goes bad. I made this decision because I mean well.
The means to the goal might be painful. But the end is good for us all. Let us not sink into cheap politics of pleasing our people today in order to betray them into suffering tomorrow. And yes, it takes pain and sacrifice to achieve good things. There is no soft ride to conquest. There is no easy walk to prosperity!
Mr. Speaker Sir, I want to report to this house that we have achieved our noble goal. We now have enough maize in our reserves to cushion us in case we don’t harvest enough. I want Malawians to sleep with peace in our mind knowing that we have food for today and we will have enough food for tomorrow.
But I have one caution Mr. Speaker. Let us not forget that we are Malawians. Let us not be carried away by international driven policies that do not work for our people. In our culture, we have always been proud to keep surplus maize in our homestead. As our people say, kulemera ndikudya! We do not stop growing maize in the next season because we have what we traditionally call chimanga chogonera! We grow more maize because we do not want to be a nation of beggars begging food from others.
Therefore, let me urge all farmers to grow more maize this season. If you wish your voters well, let every Member of Parliament in this house go to our people and urge our people to grow more maize. Maize is our life. And we cannot stop growing maize because we have enough maize.
As Government, I want to commit that we will support our farmers. This year, we have started distributing coupons and our Farm Input Subsidy Program is on course. We have defied those who wanted to frustrate and derail the program to starve millions of Malawians.
In a special vote of thanks, Mr. Speaker Sir, let me thank the Agriculture Committee of this House for taking a patriotic, firm and defiant stand in defence of the subsidy program.
DEMOCRACY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me turn to the subject of accountability. I have always said accountability is the first principle of democracy. In a democracy, everyone must be accountable to someone. And let only God be accountable to himself. Time and again, Government gives an account of its work to the people of Malawi. Through your committees, you Members of Parliament have been examining records of government, asking questions and demanding answers. My Government has been accountable to the people of Malawi through you. We are always accountable to Parliament. But are you accountable to Government and the people who voted for you? As we say in Latin, quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Put it this way, who watches the watchers? Who is holding accountable the MPs who hold us accountable in this house?
I hear the people complaining that some of you are abusing Constituency Development Fund (CDF). I hear the people crying that some development projects are not completed because their Member of Parliament has abused CDF. Government sets aside this money in the budget for the people. The fund is for development work in the constituencies. But some members are abusing the money instead of giving development to the people. Some MPs abuse the funds of the people. And yet Mr. Speaker, the same vocal MPs stand here to accuse Government of corruption. Let me say this Mr. Speaker, and to all dear Malawians hearing me now. Something is tragic with a democracy in which those who think are watchdogs also think they must be accountable to no one. In any human society, in any democracy,…