Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Chakwera Enforces Austerity: Cabinet Ministers’ Foreign Trips Restricted Again to Conserve Forex

Mafuta Mwale

The country does not have enough foreign exchange available. President Chakwera is aware of this, and as a result, his administration has once again placed limitations on overseas trips for Cabinet ministers and higher-ranking government personnel starting from August 15, 2023. This decision is outlined in a message dated August 7, 2023, and signed by Secretary to the Treasury MacDonald Mafuta Mwale. The communication is directed to the Secretary of the Office of the President and Cabinet, all heads of government ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs), as well as CEOs of government-owned businesses and organizations.

“Malawi is currently facing harsh economic conditions with inflation rising to 27.0 percent for June 2023 and experiencing an acute scarcity of foreign exchange pressure on the exchange rate. One way through which we can control the drain on foreign exchange reserves, foreign travel by Government MDAs as well as State Owned Enterprises(SOEs), must be restricted,” reads the statement in part.

Mafuta Mwale also mentions that external travel, starting with Cabinet members, must be limited to absolutely necessary trips. These trips would require the President’s approval, with the condition that evidence of funding and resource availability from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs is provided.

He adds that all principal secretaries, directors of Government MDAs, CEOs, director generals, and senior management of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) must obtain authorization from the Secretary to the President and Cabinet. This authorization is contingent upon the Secretary to the Treasury confirming the availability of funding and resources.

“Controlling Officers shall approve external travel only after consulting Treasury on availability of resources, proof of funding and budget allocation,” says Mwale.

He adds: ”The number and composition of a delegation travelling outside the country shall be approved by Secretary to the President and Cabinet.

“Where external travel is donor-funded, there shall be no government financial outlay in the form of top-up allowances towards such travel.”

In the previous fiscal year, the government implemented measures to control spending. Mafuta Mwale states that these measures led to achieving savings in the budget allocated for external travel. Therefore, there is a requirement to persist with their implementation in the current fiscal year.


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