Bingu wa Mutharika spent more so give us space, State House claims
As criticism continues over Malawi President Joyce Banda’s K308 million (about $1.1m) trip to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), State House says her expenditures are better than what the late President Bingu wa Mutharika was spending in his time.
In a press statement on Friday, presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane defended the K308 million ($1.1m) figure as reasonable, necessary and the lowest Malawi has spent on such previous meetings.
Said Nhlane: “This is a necessary expense given the importance of the many meetings Banda is holding with potential investors and world leaders whose support Malawi needs for rebuilding Malawi’s economy.
“The goal of these meetings is to galvanise support of the international community and bring in investors into Malawi. Her Excellency’s work with the international community has already brought back over $500 million from the IMF, Millennium Challenge Corporation and others for Malawi’s economic growth.”
Nhlane said Banda’s entourage comprises 33 people, a figure he again boasted was smaller than the over 42 people Mutharika took on a similar trip in 2010.
The press secretary said the former president’s delegation included many party leaders, chiefs and expenses for the presidential jet costing the taxpayer over K700 million (about $2.3m) at today’s exchange rate. He added that the fallen leader followed up the UN meeting with a month-long vacation in Europe.
“Banda has also taken with her four chiefs. These have gone there in their other capacities such as members of the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction (PIPHR). During the trip, PIPHR will sign important memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with potential investors such as the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on crucial programmes aimed at reducing poverty among Malawians,” said Nhlane.
The Nation on Thursday published readers feedback on the trip and comments included: “This is rotten. We demand a breakdown of that ridiculous amount”. Another asked to sensitise taxpayers to holding government accountable because a few realise it was their money being spent. He said it was time to change.
Banda left the country for New York on September 15 and is expected back home on October 2 2012. Treasury sources disclosed this week that each member of the President’s entourage is claiming $280 (about K84 000) per day in allowances. Among other engagements, the President is scheduled to receive an African-America Institutes (AAI) Award for championing women’s rights and business leadership.