The director of research for Malawi’s opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) party has expressed shock after President Bingu Wa Mutharika allegedly threatened to expel donors and close down newspapers for reporting that about one million Malawians were in need of food aid.
Humphrey Mvula described President Mutharika’s threats as unfortunate, adding that Malawi could be plunged into crisis if donors pull out their financial support for the country’s budget.
“Our president (was) expressing anger (and) disappointment and possibly indicating that look, I’ve invested so much into this project... I don’t think a newspaper will print a report generated by itself. It will print a report coming off from a researcher or a research organization. So, a newspaper is only a messenger (and) you should not kill a messenger,” he said.
Mr. Mutharika was reportedly displeased with a newspaper report that Malawi faces a food crisis due to crop failure.
Observers say the report undermines Mr. Mutharika’s food security policy which initially attracted both local and international recognition.
Some economists say Malawi’s economy could face serious difficulty if donors withheld their financial support.
The country relies heavily on international aid according for an estimated 40 percent of the budget.
The donors include the Common Approach to Budget Support group (Cabs), a donor grouping of Britain, the European Commission, Norway, Germany, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
Opposition researcher Mvula said donor support is essential to Malawi’s budget.
“Technically, we cannot do without donors for the moment. We have a 30 percent deficit on our budget. We still have so many humanitarian aid that come off from our donors. So, there is no way we will wish them away from this country. We cannot do that for the moment,” Mvula said.
He also expressed hope that President Mutharika will quickly amend the possible rift with the country’s donor community over his alleged threats.
Opposition researcher Mvula urged the donor community to transcend President Mutharika’s pronouncement, saying their financial support is for the betterment of the ordinary poor Malawian.