Lazarus Chakwera, the President of Malawi, has suspended all foreign trips by any government official including himself, the president. The suspension will be effected immediately and put in place until March 2024.
He announced on Wednesday night in a nationally televised address. According to him, this was a move to heal the nation’s economy.
In addition to suspending the foreign trips, he directed all ministers currently outside the country to return to Malawi.
“Any travel deemed absolutely necessary by anyone during that period must be submitted to my office for my personal authorisation,” Chakwera said.
The President had faced criticism over his frequent foreign travel despite the tough economic times. Consequently, he said he would lead by example by curtailing his travel plans. He cancelled his attendance at the COP 28 climate change conference in Dubai scheduled for later this month.
This move is part of the measures undertaken to deal with the current cost of living. Aside from this, the president unveiled other austerity measures that are aimed at healing the economy. Among them was the decision to cut fuel entitlements for cabinet ministers and senior government officials by 50 per cent.
He also instructed the finance minister to include provisions for a reasonable wage decrease for all civil servants in the midyear budget review. In addition to that, he ordered a lowering of income tax on individuals. The move on lowered income tax is to ‘ lower the tax burden ‘ on the workers whose incomes have lost value.
Malawi’s Economic Crisis
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The economic crisis includes fuel shortages, inflated food prices, and a shortage of foreign exchange. Its central bank announced a devaluing of the local currency against the United States Dollar by nearly 30 per cent.
The crisis is consistent in most African countries. The local currencies keep depreciating against the dollar as countries grapple with the high cost of fuel and shortages of the dollar.
Despite Malawi’s financial situation, it has not increased the burden on its citizens. Instead, the country has reduced the government budget for foreign travel and other luxuries that government officials enjoy.