Malawi’s new administration will be saving about $50,000 (K20 million) per month because of a lean cabinet of 20 that President Peter Mutharika appointed when he took office last month. Mutharika’s predecessor Joyce Banda had a 32 member cabinet while his elder brother BinguwaMutharika had cabinet of 43 ministers. A lean cabinet is an attempt to rein in on expenditure in the wake of an aid freeze by the country’s powerful western donors.
“With a cabinet of 20 members, we envisage that we will be saving about K20 millionper month which is enough resources to divert to the delivery of health services,” Finance Minister GoodallGondwe said in an interview. Malawi’s health sector is no stranger to the shortage of medical staff, and essential drugs, and is so dependent on donor support. “Any savings that government makes and diverts to the health sector is very important in our efforts of improving the delivery of health services,” said Juliana Lungunzi, chairperson of the parliamentary committee on health.
Currently, a Malawian cabinet minister gets K1.3 million ($3,250) per month plus a monthly fuel allowance of K520,000 ($1,300). A deputy minister takes home K800,000($2,000) and the same fuel allowance as the senior ministers. “This means that our wage bill minus travel allowances has come down to K35 million a manageable figure compared to Banda’s K55 million per month,” Gondwe said.
According to Gondwe, government plans to reduce spending on presidential travel to K10 billion down from K30 billion spent on presidential and senior government officials’ travel under the Banda administration. The southern African nation, among the least developed and poorest nations in the world, is trying to find its feet after donors decided to withhold $150 million in crucial budget support.
This is the second time in five years that donors are withholding crucial support to Malawi. They withdraw support to protest against the autocratic rule of late President Mutharika who died in office in April 2012 after mounting pressure from rights groups to resign. The donor aid-freeze resulted into drug and fuel shortages
When Banda took over in a peaceful transition of power, her first assignment was to win back the donor confidence and the International Monetary Fund programme. She managed to do that, but one year down the line, she lost the donors who were not happy with the graft scandal dubbed “Cashgate”. Donors now want the Mutharika administration to get to the bottom of the cashgate scandal in which over $15 million was stolen before they can commit to budget support again. Traditionally, budget support from donors accounts for about 40 percent of the national budget.