A Malawian politician and president of People's Progressive Movement (PPM) has warned that Malawians should get ready for even harder times ahead as the current People's Party (PP)government is failing Malawians on governance and economic fronts.
Katsonga issues the warning in a statement released Thursday in reaction to a press briefing, on Tuesday, where government outlined an economic recovery plan with expected results in 18 months.
PPM president says Minister of Economic Planning Atupele Muluzi and his Information counterpart Moses Kunkuyu failed to articulate a clear plan for the government that is going to end the suffering.
"Malawians expected to hear a clear plan government has to mitigate the suffering in these hard economic times but the ministers [Muluzi and Kunkuyu] failed to come out clearly on what government is doing to get Malawians out of the economic challenges," Katsonga says.
He cites low wages, rising of commodity prices, continued fuel shortages, strikes, reduction of the bloated cabinet and disposal or redeployment of the presidential jet as some of the economic challenges the government needs to address.
Katsonga says while PPM appreciates that the government cannot overcome these challenges overnight, Malawians expect a clear plan of action from government considering that the PP Government is now five months old and a national budget was passed.
He further says PPM does not understand why Malawians would not get answers like:
"We are doing ABC to cushion cost of living affecting citizens as a result of the devaluation which has triggered strikes demanding high wages;
"If aid continues to be withheld;
"Government has the following fall back plan to make sure that the economy does not collapse;
"In the next 3 months government will do ABC, in 6 months it will do XYZ, in 12 months we will do this and that and in 18 months Malawians should expect the following deliverables...
"The devaluation and the introduction of the automatic fuel pricing adjustment policy alone is disastrous to an economy which is not stable like ours," Katsonga says.
He warns that the outstanding determination of section 65, rampant corruption, rising crime, arbitrary arrests, unfair dismissals and crucial vacant positions in the civil service shall continue compelling some donors to withhold their aid should the government choose not to address them immediately.
He further doubts the "capacity, ability and political goodwill" in the present cabinet to effectively implement the President's vision, saying the majority of the cabinet ministers are "the very people responsible for the mismanagement of our economy" when they were ministers or MP's in the previous regime.
When contacted to respond to Katsonga's sentiments, Kunkuyu asked for a questionnaire and promised to respond immediately after receiving and reading it.
But as we went to press, he had not yet responded and his aide said he was in a meeting when we called again.
Muluzi could not answer his phone when contacted to get his response on the same yesterday.
Since the devaluation of the kwacha, the government has not provided the rural poor masses with cushions against its effects except for the ongoing farm input subsidy programme and public works programme where people will be getting K300 per day for doing public works.
Upon President Joyce Banda's ascending to office in April this year, analysts said they expected to appoint a lean cabinet to reduce public expenditure which could help in economic recovery.
President Banda instead appointed a 32-member cabinet which uses fuel guzzling Mercedes Benz vehicles and estate vehicles, which commentators say are a drain on the public purse.
However, Kunkuyu said at the Lilongwe press briefing that the government would keep its luxurious ministerial Mercedes Benz as the government currently does not have money to buy new off road vehicles.
The government is yet to declare its last position on the costly presidential jet.