Two economists have separately rebuked Members of Parliament (MPs) for increasing their daily sitting and subsistence allowances from K60,000 to K80,000 without considering the current economic situation where various sectors continue (to struggle with) underfunding.
Towards the end of the just-ended budget meeting, the lawmakers raised their allowances at a time Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, had reduced the fiscal plan by K50 billion to cut down on borrowing among other things.
And during an interaction with Parliament’s Education Committee had with Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) in Lilongwe last week, lawmakers John Chikalimba of Zomba Changalume and Kamlepo Kalua of Rumphi East charged that even the K80,000 is not enough.
They were reacting to a petition by some civil society organisations (CSOs) that were demanding that the hike should be reversed.
Chikalimba specifically highlighted that as MPs, they deserve hotel accommodation while executing their duties and that it is insulting that some people want them to sleep in rest houses.
“I am supposed to sleep in a hotel. But the K60,000 is for accommodation, food and everything. So it is clear that the K60,000 is peanuts. I am surprised that there is no one who is talking about these conditions. Do you expect me to sleep in a rest house?” Chikalimba charged.
Kalua also accused both the CSOs and the media of not understanding the allowances issue but “rushing to comment”.
He said: “Journalists write things that they understand very little about. You should stop that! CSOs are also talking about allowances. They should understand that we undertake several activities in our constituencies. They go around with their petitions without understanding what we do and why we are paid.”
But in separate interviews yesterday, professor of economics at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, Ben Kalua, and economics lecturer at Catholic University, Gilbert Kachamba, stressed that the current performance of the economy demands prudent spending in all sectors.
In Kalua’s view, while MPs have their entitlements which include decent accommodation in the course of their duties, “we must cut our coat according to our cloth”.
He said: “Of course, they contribute quite a lot to the development of the country, but they should not overrate their productivity. Elsewhere, things are tougher and civil servants who were supposed to be enjoying good allowances do not get that.”
Kalua also indicated that the value of MPs is highly elevated now because there is rampant corruption and the lawmakers have to be seen to be taking government to task.
On his part, Kachamba said with the way the economy is performing, Malawi cannot afford to have huge sums of money spent on recurrent transactions.
“Much as the MPs are entitled to good allowances, they should also take into account how the economy is performing. If the economy was performing well, that could not have been a problem. But I think the way our economy is performing, what they were getting was enough,” Kachamba said.
He added that MPs were supposed to be making policies that should boost the economy instead of milking it.
Meanwhile, the CSOs are also pushing for MPs’ allowances to be paid per hour and not per day as is the case now, apparently because some lawmakers focus on self-service and are seldom found in the chamber.