- Interview-Malawi Finmin Aims for Budget Reform
BLANTYRE, Malawi, April 17 (Reuters) - Finance Minister Matthews
Chikaonda said on Tuesday the budget was in disarray and Malawi required
reforms to revive international investor confidence.
The former central bank governor told Reuters the budget deficit was running at
an unacceptable 3.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) versus a target
of 1.4 percent, mainly because the government spent cash it did not have.
"We need a comprehensive reform of the budget and tight expenditure control to
get the country back on the path of sustainable growth," Chikaonda said.
"We must have a budget that funds items collectively shared by Malawians, we
must not allow the budget to fund personal luxuries, as would appear the case at
the moment. I am reviewing every sentence in the last budget to ensure these
principles are followed," he said.
On Monday, the IMF said it had a "favourable view" of Chikaonda's reform
plans but was disturbed by Malawi's history of waste and inertia, urging it to
stem graft and fraud in government.
Chikaonda took over as finance minister last month from Cassium Chilumpha,
who was linked to corruption by the state anti-graft agency.
CHIKAONDA WANTS MORE FISCAL DISCIPLINE
Chikaonda said fiscal discipline, requiring government departments to spend
cash on the basis of quarterly Exchequer allocations rather than the budget,
would ensure there was no funding in arrears.
"By spending according to provisions in the budget, government departments
forgot that revenues did not tally with proposed allocations. This has led to
massive arrears, which, now plan to clear in the next three months," he said.
Chikaonda said his measures targeted short-term stability, followed by long-term
Malawi's per capita income is just $220 and many Malawians live well below
the World Bank poverty threshold of $1 a day.
The gross domestic product is expected to grow by about six percent in 2000,
up from an average four percent in the last four years, but commercial interest
rates stand well above 50 percent while inflation is estimated at 30 percent.
Chikaonda said those figures suggested an environment that would not allow
economic prosperity and repeated he aimed to get both down to below 20
percent in a 12 to 18 month period.
Chikaonda said he was putting reform pressure on poorly managed government
parastatals such as state power utility Eskom and Air Malawi, because he had
no plans to subsidise them.
Eskom sold power at below-production costs while Air Malawi had far too
many staff, he said.
Malawi is hoping for further help from aid donors and possible debt relief.
Chikaonda said he wanted donors to work on a set of agreed conditions for
every grant or loan -- and once that set of conditions was met, the goal-posts
would not be moved.
"If they move the benchmarks, it means a short-fall in budgetary funding. I have
to find a way to plug those arrears. I have told them I would rather not have
donor funding than have uncertainty in budget management," Chikaonda said.
Erratic Rains Threaten Malawi Tea Production
Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) (Panafrican News Agency, April 18, 2000) - Tea
production in Malawi is likely to drop by an average of 6 percent from the 1999
output following the erratic rainfall pattern experienced in major tea growing
areas at the onset of the growing season November.
The Conforzi and Ruo Tea Estates, in southern Malawi, said the 1999/2000
season has not been conducive for quality tea leaves.
Martin Kumbani, production manager at Conforzi Tea Estate, said that while
there was a worrisome dry-spell at the beginning of the season, some areas
received a deluge that affected tealeaves since the too much rain deprived the
crop of adequate sunshine for a healthy growth.
"The rainfall situation was not that good because the rains started a little bit late
hence a draw-back in tea production," he told PANA.
Kumbani said although it was too early to come up with concrete estimates, it
was clear that output will be lower than that of 1999.
He added that since March, the estate had managed to reap only 9.3 million kg
of tea, down 0.6 million kg from the 9.9 million kg the estate managed to reap
during the same period in 1999.
Smarton Mkandawire, Ruo Tea Estate assistant factory manager, said the rains
have affected both quality and quantity of tea.
But the Planters Tea Agency, that supplies tea growers with capital resources,
was optimistic; saying the effect of the erratic rainfall will not be significant.
According to the National Economic Council, given good rains, Malawi was
expected to produce 45 million kg of tea, up from the 43.9 million kg produced
The council said tea, Malawi's second chief export, earned 1.1 billion kwacha
(about 26 US dollars) in 1999.
In a related development, the Malawi Export Promotion Council says for the
past two years, there has been an increase in net earnings from tea, registering
625.9 million kwacha in 1997 and 1.2 billion kwacha in 1998.
Malawi, ranked second after Kenya in tea exports in Africa, sells the product in
the United Kingdom.
Malawi President Visits Sudan
KHARTOUM, April 19 (Reuters) - Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi, who has
in the past mediated between Sudan and Uganda, is to meet Sudanese President
Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Thursday.
The privately-owned Al-Ayam newspaper quoted Muluzi, who arrived in
Khartoum late on Tuesday, as saying his talks would cover "African issues and
peace and security in the continent."
Muluzi, with his ministers of foreign affairs, agriculture and water resources, was
due to visit the Kenana sugar factory and Gezira irrigation scheme in central
Sudan on Wednesday.
Sudan and Uganda agreed in December to stop supporting each other's rebel
groups and to return one another's missing nationals, but relations have remained
Uganda says it has returned all Sudanese prisoners of war. Sudan flew 51
Ugandans home earlier this month, the second such group to be repatriated since
the agreement was signed.
Lawyers Make Final Submissions In Landmark
Panafrican News Agency
April 18, 2000
By Raphael Tenthani, PANA Correspondent
Lilongwe, Malawi (PANA) - Submissions in the case in which the Malawi
opposition is disputing President Bakili Muluzi's victory in the June 1999 elections
ended in a Lilongwe high court Tuesday with both sides almost agreeing that the
Electoral Commission flouted the constitution when it declared Muluzi the winner.
British lawyer Clive Stanbrook, hired by the opposition to marshall its legal team,
told presiding judge, Justice Isaac Ntambo, that the commission fraudulently
declared Muluzi winner because he did not garner over 50 percent of registered
voters as required by the constitution.
He argued that even in its report of the elections, the commission debated
internally as to whether they should use as criteria in declaring the results the
constitutional provision or the presidential and parliamentary elections act which
provides simply that whoever amasses the majority of the votes should be declared
Stanbrook argued that basing Muluzi's victory on the presidential and
parliamentary act was wrong since the constitution was the supreme law of the
land and it says in its preamble that any law inconsistent with it should be null and
"We therefore submit that Muluzi was declared winner using an invalid law," he
In response, James Goudie, another British lawyer hired by the government, said
although the constitution says one should get more than 50 percent of the voters'
roll, Muluzi was still legally the president of Malawi since the constitution says the
incumbent shall hold office until such a time a new one is sworn in.
He also said the constitution only provides for fresh elections, not a re- run, as the
opposition were demanding.
He added that it was improper to quash the elections though he admitted the
constitutional provision makes them inconclusive "but not invalid."
Making its submission, the electoral commission through their lawyer Kalekeni
Kaphale said re-runs are expensive for a poor economy like Malawi's.
But taking back the stand, Stanbrooke said democracy was expensive in the first
place, and if the government lawyers agreed there was an anomaly, there should
be a re-run.
Mtambo adjourned the case to a further date when he is expected to make a
Lawyers observing the case told PANA that Mtambo has a tough job before him
since both sides of the case seem in agreement that the constitution was flouted
when declaring Muluzi winner in the closely run elections.
Tobacco Sales Hit Snag In Malawi
Panafrican News Agency
April 18, 2000
By Raphael Tenthani, PANA Correspondent
Blantyre, Malawi (PANA)- Commencement of the 2000 tobacco sales Monday had
a last minute hitch at the main auction floors in Lilongwe when buyers and growers
hit a stalemate over low prices.
Lilongwe sales of flue-cured tobacco caused the postponement of tobacco sales at
the Limbe Auction Floors in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre.
When the Lilongwe sales started in the morning, prices were moderately high at
1.80 US dollars per kg before they plunged down to a low of 10 US cents per kg,
the lowest offers the leaf has ever got in a decade.
This was a far cry to opening prices of the crop in 1999, which were as high as two
dollars per kg for the same quality.
George Mituka, public relations officer for the Tobacco Association of Malawi, said
that growers sought redress with the buyers sometime in the morning after they
got dissatisfied with trend the prices were taking.
"We were locked in a meeting to try and resolve the issue but reached a
deadlock...we (growers) then decided to suspend the sales," he told PANA.
According to Mituka, the buyers refused to budge, claiming the quality of the 2000
leaf was poor compared to that of 1999.
Then a stalemate ensued as the growers protested, saying the buyers wanted to
take them for a ride.
Mituka dismissed the buyers' suggestions that the 2000 leaf was of poor quality.
"Actually the same quality of leaf sold at two dollars last year is the same they are
trying to take for 1.20 dollars," he said.
Riot police had to be called in to quell any possible violence as tempers flew when
the buyers refused to budge.
The situation at the auction floors was in complete contrast with what the chair of
the Tobacco Control Commission Board, Chief Mbelwa IV, told the growers before
the start of the sales.
"There is very good quality tobacco this year. Growers have brought new
millennium crop this year and they are expecting millennium prices," he said.
Meanwhile, sales of tobacco failed to start at the Limbe Auction Floors in Blantyre
Tuesday because of the stalemate at the Lilongwe Auction Floors.
Mituka said the association had scheduled to meet buyers before commencement
of sales to avoid a similar scenario.
The outcome of the talks would determine the opening of the Limbe Auction
Tobacco Control Commission general manager Godfrey Chapola early April told
journalists that he expected the pricing trends to be similar to that of 1999, ranging
between two and 2.50 dollars per kg.
But a recent economic survey buy the London-based Economic Intelligence Unit
on three southern African countries -- Botswana, Namibia and Malawi -- said the
outlook for Malawi's tobacco was uncertain.
It said Malawi, an agro-based economy, risked reaping a low GDP of 2.5 percent in
2000 from the government's estimated 6 percent.
It said the year's quality was poor compared to 1999.
- But good info for my childhoods class which will be doing projects on child labor. Maybe having the info will spur people to change things. I still hold out hope...How's the home solar project??KCOn Mon, Aug 24, 2009 at 9:26 AM, Christine Chumbler <wartpiggy@...> wrote:
Nothing to be proud of here, I'm afraid.
Malawi's child tobacco pickers 'poisoned by nicotine'Aug 24 2009 07:05Children in Malawi who are forced to work as tobacco pickers are exposed to nicotine poisoning equivalent to smoking 50 cigarettes a day, an investigation has found.
Child labourers as young as five are suffering severe health problems from a daily skin absorption of up to 54mg of dissolved nicotine, according to the international children's organisation Plan.
Malawian tobacco is found in the blend of almost every cigarette smoked in the West. The low-grade, high-nicotine tobacco is often used as a filler by manufacturers, reflecting a long-term global shift in production.
Tobacco farms in America declined by 89% between 1954 and 2002. Three-quarters of production has migrated to developing countries, with Malawi the world's fifth biggest producer.
Seventy percent of its export income comes from tobacco and the country is economically dependent on it.
Plan cites research showing that Malawi has the highest incidence of child labour in Southern Africa, with 88,9% of five to 14-year-olds working in the agricultural sector. It is estimated that more than 78 000 children work on tobacco estates -- some up to 12 hours a day, many for less than 1p an hour and without protective clothing.
Plan's researchers invited 44 children from tobacco farms in three districts to take part in a series of workshops. They revealed a catalogue of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and spoke about the need to work to support themselves and their families and pay school fees.
The children reported common symptoms of green tobacco sickness (GTS), or nicotine poisoning, including severe headaches, abdominal pain, muscle weakness, coughing and breathlessness.
"Sometimes it feels like you don't have enough breath, you don't have enough oxygen," one child said. "You reach a point where you cannot breathe because of the pain in your chest. Then the blood comes when you vomit. At the end, most of this dies and then you remain with a headache."
GTS is a common hazard of workers coming into contact with tobacco leaves and absorbing nicotine through their skin, particularly when harvesting. It is made worse by humid and wet conditions, which are prevalent in Malawi, as residual moisture on the leaves helps nicotine to be absorbed quicker.
Everyday symptoms of GTS are more severe in children than adults as they have not built up a tolerance to nicotine through smoking and because of their physical size. There is a lack of research into the long-term effects of GTS in children, but experts believe that it could seriously impair their development.
Neal Benowitz, professor of medicine, psychiatry and biopharmaceutical sciences at California University in San Francisco, said: "Numerous animal studies have shown that administration of nicotine during infancy and adolescence produces long-lasting changes in brain structure and function, as well as behavioural changes that are not seen when nicotine is administered to adults.
"The brain of a child or adolescent is particularly vulnerable to adverse neurobehavioural effects of nicotine exposure."
Plan called on Malawi's government to enforce existing child labour and protection laws and on plantations to provide safer, fairer working conditions for those children forced to work. It demanded that multinational tobacco companies scrutinise their suppliers far more closely and follow their own corporate responsibility guidelines.
Macdonald Mumba, Plan Malawi's child rights adviser, said: "This research shows that tobacco estates are exploiting and abusing children who have a right to a safe working environment.
"Plan is calling for better enforcement of child labour laws and harsher punishment for employers who break them. These children are risking their health for 11p a day." - guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2009
Hotmail® is up to 70% faster. Now good news travels really fast. Try it now.
"...for f*ck’s sake, the only thing that privilege is good for is to try to help other people." –Junot Diaz