By Bester Kayaye
The Passenger Welfare Association (PAWA), a national body that promotes and protects the rights of passengers, has called on government to include rail transportation in hauling fuel into the country.
As part of its input to the 2023/2024 fiscal year national budget, PAWA says its suggestion is a measure to reduce the cost of transporting which would in turn bring down the cost of consumer goods across the country
PAWA President Don Napuwa says in an interview with Mining and Trade Review that government needs to take aggressive approaches in dealing with hefty prices of fuel that together with other economic forces heighten the cost of living in Malawi.
“Fuel drives the economy so if the price of fuel is high, it means the cost of living will automatically skyrocket as the prices of goods and services are also determined by transportation costs,” he says, urging government to devise means of reducing the price of fuel in order to induce a fall in related economic components.
“We propose that government facilitates ferrying fuel by rail,” he says pointing at the effects the Covid-19 pandemic which slowed down the economy and affected forex inflows resulting in fuel shortages and the subsequent escalation of commodity prices.
Napuwa notes that government has a choice either to consider their proposal or to adjust Pay-As-You-Earn tax bracket from K100-thousand to K250-thousand or K300-thousand and raise the minimum wage from K50-thousand to K150-thousand.
He also asks government to actively participate in transportation services especially movement of people.
“We expect some of these practical strategies to be adopted when developing the budget so that the livelihoods of local Malawians are cushioned,” he says
In a separate interview, Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe says government is determined to take-heed of every contributions made by stakeholders bearing in mind that there is need to reduce public debit which he describes as a main constraint preventing the country’s economic independence.
Gwengwe says: “Basically most of the proposals that various stakeholders are bringing on-board are things that the Ministry is already considering and now it is working in ensuring that the next budget should be centric on looking at the productive side of our economy with private sector as the main ally of our developmental projections.”
“We want the 2023/2024 budget to be inclusive in such a way that it should reflect the aspirations of the private sector, civil society organizations and all Malawians.”