His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi
His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, President of the Republic of Malawi, on Friday, 4th May, 2018, officially opened the 3rd Meeting in the 47th Session of Parliament and 2018/2019 Budget Meeting, during which he delivered the State of the Nation Address (SONA) titled: Delivering Sustainable Development. Below is a full text of the SONA
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Address this year is on delivering sustainable development. This is the title of my Address. My message is simple. We have delivered to the people, and we will continue delivering.
This month, four years ago – we were speaking of a broken economy, stagnated projects and smashed hopes. Today, we have the economy fixed, confidence regained, projects moving, and hope rising. Those of us who are proud of our nation should celebrate our economic efforts as a country. We all know that nothing works when the economy doesn’t work. And we know that a working economy is the beginning of a prospering nation.
The question is not whether Malawi is developing or not. The question is: which way is Malawi developing? Every time I come to address this house, we all want to know the policy direction we are taking this country.
On this day, we all ask: where is our country coming from? We all ask: in what state is our country? And we all ask: what is our government doing? As we ask what Government is doing, let us also ask what role each one of us is playing in developing our nation. Let us examine our responsibility. Mr. Speaker, Sir, in this country, many people do not want to distinguish politics from development. We are a nation that carries our politics too far to the point of destroying development. There are people whose only dream is aspiring to destroy this country. For example, the recent demonstrations were planned to trigger riots which was to lead to breaking and burning of property. They wanted to create a state of chaos, panic and fear to make Malawi ungovernable. While we are rebuilding the economy, there are people who think of destroying it. This is unacceptable. We enjoy our freedom of expression. But our political freedom must never bring disorder in this country. We want to develop this country. There are people who cannot respect the principles of our governance. Our respect for governance must begin with our respect for this august House. We cannot be Parliamentarians who make laws in this House and go out to demonstrate against our own laws. This spirit of lawlessness cannot be accepted.
While you and I are making every effort to build confidence in Malawians, there are people whose job is creating hopelessness in the people. There are people whose job is discouraging Malawians who want to work for their lives and for this nation. This must stop because we are destroying our own country. Destroying the self-confidence of the people is destroying the country. Let us learn to be proud of our efforts as a nation. We can differ on politics, but we must agree and unite on developing this nation. The first point that we need to be proud of is what we have done in macro-economic performance. Indeed, let me proceed to outline our macro-economic outlook.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, our macro-economic outlook is very bright. Nobody says we have achieved economic perfection. Nobody should say we don’t have challenges. But we agree that there is now a clear sense of economic direction and that we can count our achievements as a nation. In general, we have achieved macro-economic stability, inflation reduction and a rebound in economic growth. The International Monetary Fund has just given us a vote of confidence. This week, the IMF has approved a new Extended Credit Facility for the next three years. This means the IMF is satisfied with our economic management.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Honourable Members! We are making history. In 2014, we had a deficit that nearly equaled our annual national budget. It has taken us three years to turn around the economy from the devastation of cashgate, and through national disasters of floods, drought and hunger. Four years ago, inflation was at 24 per cent. Today, we have delivered a single digit inflation. Four years ago, interest rates were at 25 per cent. Today, interest rates are at 16 per cent. We have taken our foreign currency import cover from the lowest point to the highest point in our economic history. From an import cover of below 2 months, our import cover now stands at 6 months. Our local currency is now stable and predictable. In these few years, we have taken GDP Growth Rate from 2.4 per cent. In 2018, we expect growth to be at 4 per cent. In 2019, we expect growth to rise to 6 per cent. Mr. Speaker, Sir, this House may ask: is our economic performance benefiting our people? The answer is yes! Our progress does not mean all people are economically equal. That does not happen anywhere on earth. The point is: there are signs of progress with more people participating in the economy to create their own opportunities. With the state of our economy, our business community find it easier to access forex for smooth cross-border trade. For two years now, prices of fuel have not risen. Consumers tell us prices of many goods in shops and fares of buses have been stable.
There is more business in construction materials because Malawians are building more than ever – and you can see this all around us. Malawians are buying more cars than ever because more and more people can afford a car. You can see the rising population of vehicles on our roads. You can see the rising demand for fuel as new filling stations are rising everywhere. In our villages, you can see more men and women constructing modern houses with iron-sheets. In our communities, you can see young men buying motorbikes because now they can afford. These motorbikes are transforming the transport system in rural communities. Mr. Speaker, Sir, whether we like it or not, whether we have chosen to see or not to see – there is a quiet economic revolution slowly happening among our own people while we watch. With a growing economy, revenue grows; and with growing revenue, we can do more for our people using our own national resources. Within the means of our resources, we are delivering more roads to the people; delivering new desks to our schools and delivering rural electricity to various trading centres and communities. We have delivered a new road to the people of Kasiya and Santhe with our own resources. We are delivering a road to the people of Njakwa, Livingstonia and Chitimba with our revenue. In June, we are starting the road from Rumphi to Nthalire and Chitipa via Nyika National Park with our local resources. This is what happens when an economy is growing.With our resources, we are delivering new infrastructure in our universities. This year, we will do more to collect more revenue and deliver more services. We expect to implement broad-based tax reforms that foster a simple, efficient, transparent and fair tax system. At the same time, we expect to increase salaries of our civil servants as a motivation across the board.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me now turn to Agriculture. We are heavily investing in irrigation because this is what will make us a resilient economy. We want to be an economy of all seasons, an economy that stands against climate fluctuations.
We are transforming agriculture by moving from subsistence to commercial farming. In order to achieve this goal, we are implementing the Malawi Agricultural Commercialisation Project. We will select and focus on crops for value chains. We will form cooperatives in order to create productive alliances and value addition chains. We are also implementing the Agricultural Sector-Wide Approach Programme. Our goal is to enable small-holder farmers to have access to investment capital and markets. As part of this program, we plan to construct 4,000 kilometers of roads in order to enable our farming communities access markets. This work began in March. As I speak, 40 contractors are already on the ground upgrading rural access roads and building bridges in various communities. We are also in the process of delivering the Nthola-Ilola-Ngosi Irrigation Scheme to the people of Karonga. We are developing Nchalo Irrigation Scheme. More investors are coming to develop new farms and increase value addition. For example, a new farm in Chapananga is investing in aquaculture and production of biofuels from bamboos. This is innovative.
We have a major Greenbelt project on smart irrigation farming targeting 24,000 hectares. Investors are set to partner with Nchalo Farmers’ Association. Finally, we are implementing the Shire Valley Transformation irrigation programme. This programme covers about 40,000 hectares. This is our project – funded by a loan from World Bank. By August, we should start constructing intake canals.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the complete picture of our irrigation program says one thing. Malawi’s irrigation programme is going to be the biggest irrigation program in the Southern Africa Region.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, in recognition of the huge potential the mining sector has on the country’s economic growth and development, Government has been implementing a number of initiatives aimed at increasing investments in the sector.
Some of the initiatives include: capacity building in mining contract negotiation and in development of modern mining agreements. We want ensure that we enter into mining agreements that are balanced, equitable, fair and beneficial to the people.
We have also adopted a regionally competitive Mining Fiscal Regime. This will ensure that investors will have confidence in the sector. Increased investment in mining will result in job creation and more revenue for social and economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we are reviewing the Mines and Minerals Act of 1981 and the Petroleum Act of 1983. We want to improve the legal environment of the mining industry to enhance development of the sector and increase its benefits to the people. The Bills are expected to be tabled in this sitting of Parliament.
PRIVATE SECTOR DEVELOPMENT, INDUSTRY AND TRADE
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we are moving Malawi from aid to trade. For us to realize this, we are promoting Foreign Direct Investment. We need to have bigger private sector and a smaller Government that is efficient. We need private sector investment for job creation and an expanded revenue base. The Foreign Direct Investment program is now paying off. We now have a textile company being established in Salima. This company will eventually produce yarn and cloth for export to China, India, United States, South Africa and other countries.
We have also seen the coming of business parks in Lilongwe and Blantyre besides other investments. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have one appeal to Malawians. Let us be creative and innovative in our business spirit. Malawi has a lot of products that are rated among the best in other countries. What we need is to brand them with the best pride of Malawi. Chambo is known to be one of the best tasty fish in the region. Kilombero rice and our macadamia nuts are very well known in countries like Scotland. These are only some examples. Let us brand our products as the best of Malawi.
INTEGRATED RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me now speak about integrated rural development. Our goal is to take development to the people instead of taking people to development. Malawians in rural areas should not be going to the city in search of opportunities and a higher quality of life. Let us take opportunities to the communities. People in rural areas also deserve a high quality of life. That is why we are building rural roads, developing rural growth centres, constructing stadiums, providing rural electricity and taking the internet fibre optic backbone to the people. In the 2017/18 financial year, we have delivered the Nthalire Rural Growth Centre to the people of Chitipa. It is now ready for handover to Chitipa District Council for operations. We have delivered Nambuma Rural Growth Centre to the people of Dowa. To complete the work, we have designs in place for the Dowa-Nambuma road. The road will be constructed using fuel levy. We have delivered Malomo Rural Growth Centre in Ntchisi. For easy access to the centre, we have advertised for contractors for Malomo-Ntchisi Road. The project will be funded by fuel levy. We have delivered Jenda Rural Growth Centre and it is now ready for handover to M’belwa District Council.
We are finalizing Mkanda Rural Growth Centre in Mchinji. We will hand it over the to the people of Mchinji within 2018. We have also started constructing a tarmac road to Mkanda. In addition, we are finalizing works on Chitekesa Rural Growth Centre in Phalombe and Chapananga Rural Growth Centre in Chikwawa.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me talk about stadiums we are constructing in rural areas. These facilities are important. Ask the youth and they will tell you their value to us as a society. Sports is the pride of our country and we need to support it. Let us provide facilities and support Malawians who love sports – and there are many of us. Those who say we must stop building stadiums do not wish our youth and sports lovers well. Therefore, we will continue building stadiums in our cities and rural areas.
TOURISM, WILDLIFE AND CULTURE
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Malawi continues to be one of the world’s best tourism destinations. This month of May, Malawi has been recognized by the CNN as one of the best 15 destinations to be visited in the world. There have been more of such reports.
Government remains committed to develop the tourism sector by providing enabling policy and legal frameworks. We have therefore developed the National Tourism Policy and the National Wildlife Policy. We are also inviting serious investors to invest in tourism.
As Government, we will continue to provide infrastructure that facilitates tourism. In Mangochi, we will expedite plans to construct a new airport that can take the world directly to Lake Malawi. As most of us know, Nyika National Park is rated in the top ten of the most beautiful places in Africa. The road from Rumphi to Nthalire and Chitipa via the national park should make this park more accessible to the world.
We will continue providing infrastructure such as access roads to more facilities to attract more tourists. However, let me urge the Ministry responsible to create more global networks that sell Malawi to the world. There is demand for information on Malawi out there.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, let us now talk about health. Our goal is to ensure good health for every Malawian. We want to improve access to health services by expanding some of the existing health facilities and constructing new ones. Very soon, we will stop sending our people to South Africa, India and Tanzania for cancer treatment. Construction of Malawi’s first-ever national Cancer Centre is progressing well and the project is expected to be completed before end of this year. Progress on Phalombe District Hospital and Domasi Community Hospital projects is also on course.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government is establishing boards to run Kamuzu Central Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Zomba Central Hospital, Mzuzu Central Hospital and Zomba Mental Hospital. This will improve management of the hospitals and ensure more efficient delivery of services to our people.
Government has procured medical equipment worth 5.9 million dollars for 49 health facilities. Some of the equipment has already started arriving in the country. Each of the 49 facilities will get standard minimum package of the equipment required to provide essential health care.
Let me also report that we are addressing shortage of health workers by among others, filling some of the vacant positions using the Global Fund grant and our own local resources. These include nurses for the vacant posts at the New Paediatric Surgery and Intensive Care Unit at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital. We are also recruiting 858 health workers for the different levels of health care system using the current Global Fund grant.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government is determined to end the problem of drug theft in public health facilities. We established the Drug Theft Investigation Unit to investigate cases of suspected theft of medicines and medical supplies. The trend of drug theft is declining.
In addition, Cabinet has approved the Pharmacy and Medicines Regulation Bill, 2018, which provides stiffer penalties for offenders in drug supplies. I should also report that we are globally doing well in our management of HIV and AIDS. Malawi is one of the top-rated countries in the world in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Government places priority on the fight against HIV and AIDS. We have continued to scale up free treatment program. As a result, we have reduced new HIV infections by 42 per cent between 2003 and 2017.
However, malaria continues to be a global public health problem. In the country, malaria alone contributes 30 per cent of all Out-Patient Department cases and 40 per cent of all admissions. We are therefore taking serious steps to achieve the global target of eliminating malaria by 2030. I am, therefore, pleased to announce that on all malaria impact indicators, the country is on track to achieve strategic targets and move into the elimination phase of the disease.
EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Mr. Speaker, Sir, quality education is key to the socio-economic development of our country. To this end, Government is committed to provide high quality education to its citizens. Let me report to this House some of the major achievements we have delivered to the people. In the Basic Education Sub-sector, we have recruited and deployed 34,700 primary school teachers across the country since 2014. We are making progress with construction of 3 Teacher Training Colleges in Rumphi, Mchinji and Chikwawa. These will be completed in 2 years’ time.
Currently, we have delivered over 200 classrooms and other facilities such as teachers’ houses. We are also constructing 286 more classrooms in schools across the country. In the forthcoming Financial Year, we will commence the construction of more primary schools in the cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu. Mr. Speaker, Sir, in secondary education sub-sector, Government has recruited, promoted and upgraded about 2,500 teachers. We want every child to attend school. We have therefore increased bursary and cash transfer schemes to needy students in secondary schools. No child should fail to be educated because of poverty because it is the poor child who most needs education. In addition, we are constructing more girls’ hostels, laboratory and library blocks in the country. At the same time, we are promoting quality and increasing access to university education. We have constructed new infrastructures at Chancellor College, the Polytechnic, Mzuzu University and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
This House should also note that we are delinking colleges of the University of Malawi to become independent universities. We want them to grow and take in more students across the country. Further, we have started constructing Mombera University in Mzimba in order to improve livestock production for local consumption and export.
GENDER, WOMEN AND DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we are taking necessary steps to ensure increased participation of women in the 2019 tripartite elections. We have mounted the 50-50 campaign in line with our aspirations and international agreements on gender equality.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we have adequate legal and policy framework to guide implementation of gender programmes and safeguard the rights of women. Let me also report that we have nullified 600,000 child marriages. Children that have been withdrawn from child marriages are now back in schools. Over the past year, we have harmonized gender related laws. At the same time, we have also established the Women Economic Empowerment Fund to accelerate the implementation of 40:60 quota representation as provided in the Gender Equality Act of 2013.
CHILD PROTECTION AND DEVELOPMENT
My Government cares for and values our children. We have therefore revised the National Early Child Development Policy to facilitate early childhood development services for all our children. Government has constructed 141 Community Based Childcare Centres across the country. We have trained over 14,000 caregivers. We have also rolled out the Child Protection Information Management System in ten districts. This system will provide accurate and real time data on children issues for our decision making. Government will roll out the system to all remaining districts.
THE ELDERLY AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
Mr. Speaker, Sir, the elderly and persons with disabilities have equal rights to all of us. My Government will therefore continue to promote the quality of life of older persons and persons with disabilities.
During the 2017/18 financial year, Government provided vocational skills and rehabilitation training to 296 persons with disabilities. We also provided various assistive devices to 753 persons with disabilities and older persons. We launched the Disability Communication Strategy. We increased intake of students at Mulanje Vocational and Rehabilitation Training School for the Blind following construction of modern hostels at the institution. Mr. Speaker, Sir, in 2016, Government commissioned a study on the life of elderly people in the country. Based on the findings of the study, we will work on a pension scheme to eradicate social and economic hardships the elderly face.
In the coming financial year, we will review the Witchcraft Act of 1911 to strengthen the protection of older persons from witchcraft related violence. We will continue to implement the National Response and Action Plan on Albinism. We will construct a Rehabilitation and Vocational Skills Training Centre for persons with disabilities in the Northern Region.
YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AND EMPOWERMENT
Mr. Speaker, Sir, youth empowerment is a priority of my Government. We have seen young people graduating from the community colleges we are establishing. They have gone out to become entrepreneurs and create jobs. We are delivering the Jobs for Youth Project with support from the African Development Bank. Our youths are being trained in skills for businesses. We are training youth at SMEDI for them to operate business in the agriculture supply chain. We have delivered to our youth community stadiums for their recreation and talent development. We have expanded and re-equipped our four National Technical Colleges and our public universities for the training of our youth.
SOCIAL PROTECTION PROGRAMES
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government will continue to implement programes that uplift living standards of our people. We have therefore scaled up social cash transfer from 18 to all 28 districts. Now we are giving money to more than 300,000 households. Through Public Works Programme, we are supporting 986,000 households each year. People are using this money to buy food, farm inputs and school materials for their children.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we promised roads to the people of Malawi. Roads are development. We have delivered roads to the people. We have rehabilitated the 81.7 km Chikwawa-Ngabu-Bangula Road. We have completed the phase 1 of upgrading of the Jenda-Edingeni Road. This involves upgrading of 15 km from Jenda to Chindoka. We have completed the upgrading of Milepa-Chiradzulu road section of the Chiringa-Migowi-MiseuFolo-Chiradzulu and Nguludi Spur Road Project. Mr. Speaker, Sir, a number of projects are at different stages of completion. These include:
• Zomba-Jali-Phalombe-Chitakale Road,
• Lilongwe Old Airport-Kasiya-Santhe Road,
• Mzuzu-Nkhata Bay Road, 17
• Karonga–Songwe Road,
• Njakwa–Livingstonia Road,
• Liwonde-Mangochi Road,
• Parliament Round About–Bingu National Stadium Dual Carriage Way,
• Dual Carriage Way from Chileka Airport to Clock Tower in Blantyre, and
• The Blantyre Ring Road where the first phase from Chigumula to Mpemba has started.
We have just started constructing phase 1 of the Ntcheu– Tsangano-Neno Road and the Lirangwe–Chingale–Machinga Road. In the forthcoming financial year, we are planning for Phase 2 of Lumbadzi–Dowa–Chezi Road, Kawere – Mkanda Road and Phase 2 of Jenda–Edingeni Road. Mr Speaker, Sir, the people in the cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Zomba and Blantyre can see that we are modernizing their cities with dual carriage ways and interchanges. We have delivered improved roads to the people in the townships in these cities. However, Mr. Speaker, Sir, I am aware that Lilongwe City Council has been underperforming in this area. There is no excuse. I urge the Parliamentary Committee on Local Authorities to do its job and make the Council perform.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government has continued to invest in the water transport subsector. In March this year we completed the rehabilitation of the Nkhata-Bay Jetty which sunk in 2016. In the coming financial year, we will procure two patrol boats to enhance law enforcement and ensure that only licensed vessels operate on Lake Malawi. We also have plans to roll-out freight services to Mbamba Bay on the Mtwara Corridor, introduce a regular freight service between Chilumba and Liwonde and construct a port at Liwonde.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government completed the rehabilitation of 99 km section of the rail network from Nkaya to Nayuchi. We also completed the rehabilitation of the 96 km Limbe-Nkaya section of the rail network as well as spot railway rehabilitation of the Balaka-Salima-Kanengo section of the rail network. We have started rehabilitating the 399 km railway section from Nkaya to Mchinji. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have more news.
We are reviving the railway from Limbe to Beira and designs are almost completed. We expect to start construction works by the end of the year. We are negotiating for a new railway from Lilongwe to Mbeya in Tanzania. But we are also going to construct another railway from Mbeya to Chilumba to connect with water transport where we will add more vessels to sail as far as Monkeybay. The Memorandum of Understanding has been signed and we expect the project to be on Build-Operate-and -Transfer model. At the same time, we intend to dualise the M1 Road from Blantyre to Karonga. Let us change Malawi once and for all.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we are transforming air transport in the country. Let me report that the process of establishing a Civil Aviation Authority to discharge functions previously carried out by the Civil Aviation department is under way. We are making progress with rehabilitation and expansion works at Kamuzu and Chileka International Airports. Construction works at KIA are scheduled to be completed in April, 2019. Mr Speaker, Sir, we are also negotiating with investors to construct a new international airport in Mangochi and we are making good progress. This airport will come with high standard hotels and transform tourism along Lake Malawi. Time has come to transform this country, and that is what we are doing.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we continue to make some significant progress in the area of water development. We have delivered portable water to the people of Chitipa through the Kelenge Water Supply System. We have delivered water to people of Mangochi through the New Mangochi Water Supply Treatment Works. And works are in progress for the Likhubula-Blantyre Water Supply System. Mr. Speaker, Sir, I should also report that upgrading of Liwonde Barrage is on track and works are expected to be completed by end October, 2018. The Liwonde Barrage is an important infrastructure as it regulates the level and flow of water in the Shire River for various purposes. This includes water supply, hydroelectricity generation, irrigation and control of flooding.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I always say the first step towards solving a problem is to accept the problem. You cannot solve a problem by denying it. My statement is not a blame of the past. My statement is an explanation of the causes of our situation and what we are doing about it. Let us accept that power shortage is a problem in this country. Let us accept that power shortage has been a problem for many years because we never invested to solve the problem. In short for fifty years, we never cared much that this country would have eighteen million people in need of energy.
Mr. Speaker, Sir, when I hear Malawians being angry because we have power shortage, I understand. We have let down Malawians for too many years since Independence. When people point fingers at me, I also understand that it is the sacrifice of leadership to carry the responsibility of those who governed this country before me. But let us accept that the little hydropower we invested in is facing serious challenges because climate is adverse and water levels in Lake Malawi keep fluctuating. And let us accept that we are the only Government that is confronting the power problem head-on! Let me also emphasise to this House that the diesel generators are only temporary. And yes, temporary measures are expensive. That is the cost we pay for neglecting our energy sector for fifty years as a country.
We are the first Government to declare comprehensive plans to end power shortage now and for generations to come. This country needs not less than 2,000 megawatts in order to serve our households, serve the manufacturing industry and for Malawi to start serious mining. That is why I have directed that we must double the current power supply of 360MW to 720MW by 2020. And we must generate at least 1,000MW by 2023. That is why we are diversifying power generation into coal energy, wind power, solar power, gas power and expand the current hydro system by building dams. We are working on inter-connections with our neighbouring countries to tap power already generated out there. We are making progress with plans to construct a dam on Shire River in order to expand our hydro-power system. We are going to construct a dam at Mpatamanga Gorge. The feasibility was done and World Bank has committed to cofinance the project. This project will add 300 megawatts to the national grid and it will add capacity to Kapichira with at least another 100 megawatts.
We continue to pursue implementation of the Kam’mwamba Coal Fired Power Plant for 300 megawatts. We have resolved most of the challenges that have delayed us and we are making progress. Our target of completion of construction remains the year 2021. We are also negotiating for another 500 megawatts coal fired power project in the Neno side. This is to be implemented by Millennium Energy. We are negotiating another coal power plant that can potentially produce 300 megawatts in Liwonde.
We are also negotiating with yet another coal fired power plant in either Salima or Golomoti. There are several more long-term projects we are pursuing because I want this country to resolve the power shortage problem forever. We need to say farewell to blackouts. And we will do it!
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY
Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government is committed to provide enabling environment for the development of the Information Communications and Technology (ICT) Sector. In the past two years, my Government has enacted progressive laws to make the sector effective and robust. These laws include the E-transactions and Cyber Security Act, the Communication Act and the Access to Information Act.
Last year, I launched the National Fibre Backbone Project. We want to connect all major sectors of the economy and Government agencies in the country to a high speed optical fiber based. We want rural communities to access ICT right in their communities. We have therefore delivered 114 telecentres to the people. Mr. Speaker, Sir, in the next financial year, Government will start constructing 30 additional telecentres in new constituencies across the country. We will continue with Connect a School project to ensure that all Government secondary schools have well serviced computer laboratories
LANDS, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I promised decent houses to the poor. I come here to report that we are delivering. The Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme is making good progress. As I speak, we have delivered houses to more than 11,000 households who would not have been able to afford a decent home.
Mr Speaker, Sir, let me stress here that my Government will continue with this programme. Some of the Honourable Members here and critics out there are against this programme. They themselves have more than one big house. But they do not want a widow who stays in a shack to own just a small decent house. Stop being selfish! We will keep delivering decent houses to those in need. Mr Speaker, Sir, in the 2017/18 financial year, Government continued to implement measures aimed at improving land tenure and security. This year, Government will develop subsidiary legislation for the 10 pieces of land related laws that were enacted in 2016. Currently, only the subsidiary legislation for the Customary Land Act has been finalized and is currently in force. Government will also develop and implement a rollout road map for the improved land administration and governance programme in line with the new Land Laws.
THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Mr. Speaker, Sir, my Government remains steadfast in the fight against corruption. That is why we have been increasing budget allocations to institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau and Financial Intelligence Authority. As I speak, Government is investigating a total of 1,009 cases. Out of these, 640 were completed. Of the completed cases, 143 were recommended for prosecution. Further, 3,786 corruption complaints were also handled and processed. Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government continues to promote integrity, accountability and transparency in various public and private institutions in the country through implementation of corruption prevention programs as well as capacity building for institutional integrity committees. Let me repeat what I have said before. I will not shield anyone who is suspected of corruption. No one is above the law. There is evidence that people in my Government can be investigated and prosecuted. There is also evidence that we are containing and reducing corruption. There are international reports on record testifying that my Government is fighting corruption successfully. The challenge we face is that while we are fighting corruption, some are politicizing corruption. Let me repeat. Stop politicizing corruption and join me in fighting corruption. Stop denying corruption and join me in fighting corruption. Fighting corruption demands a collective fight. Let us join hands and fight corruption.
2019 TRIPARTITE ELECTIONS
Mr. Speaker, Sir, next year we are holding tripartite elections. The Malawi Electoral Commission has already started preparations for the elections. In this regard, I would like to appeal to all Malawians and all political parties to ensure a peaceful process towards the elections. I further appeal to all eligible citizens to register for them to be able to vote next year.
PUBLIC SECTOR REFORMS
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we launched the Public Sector Reforms Programme in 2015 to improve public service delivery. We have delivered the National ID to 9 million citizens. Now we will be giving health services to only our citizens. With the ID, we have made it easy for our people to access services such as passport and licence processing. With the ID, we have flushed out ghost beneficiaries and duplication in social welfare programmes such as Public Works Programme and Social Cash Transfer. With the ID, the risk of non-repayment of loans has gone down. Financial institutions will easily be doing background checks on the credibility of the borrower. This will lower the cost of borrowing.
We have delivered the ID to the people of Malawi, and everyone agrees this is transformation. The Malawi Identity Card is one of the best IDs in the world. Our next move Mr. Speaker, Sir, is to ensure that we undertake a collective effort to integrate all possible social services on the ID. Therefore, I would like to urge the Ministry responsible to convene all stakeholders and agree on a plan for integrating various social services on the ID. This must happen sooner than later. I want the ID Card to be fully maximized.
In the 2017/18 financial year, we piloted Mlambe One Stop Service Delivery Centre. We are bringing public services under one roof. This is saving time and costs to our people. In the next financial year, we will establish 8 more Mlambe centres across the country. Mr. Speaker, Sir, to deepen Public Sector Reforms, we have put in place policy and legal framework to guide the implementation of the reforms in all the sectors. In February this year, Government adopted the first ever Malawi Public Sector Reforms Policy and Malawi Public Service Management Policy. The Malawi Public Sector Reforms Policy will institutionalize the reforms in all branches of Government. Mr. Speaker, Sir, Government will also review various legislations such as Public Service Act and its regulations. We will harmonize the 8 Public Service Commissions into the Malawi Public Commissions Act and its regulations.
We have finalized a Bill for the establishment of the Malawi School of Government to provide training for leadership and management in the public service.
NATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY
Mr. Speaker, Sir, peace and security are critical to development. My Government will continue to implement measures to sustain the peace and keep our people safe. On this note, we have increased the number of police officers and equipped them with modern public order equipment. With support from the Peoples Republic of China, the Malawi Police Service has received over 100 vehicles to ease mobility challenges. We have a plan to construct police forensic laboratory as a major step in the fight against crime. Mr. Speaker, Sir, this year we have launched the National Security Policy and the National Peace Policy. These documents will enhance collaboration and coordination among state security agencies as well as non-state actors. To improve the management of immigration and citizenship services, we are strengthening immigration services through recruitment of more officers and the introduction of Integrated Border Control System. We will also be adopting automated Permit and Visa processing and issuing systems. Mr. Speaker, Sir, let me report that Government is implementing several projects in Malawi Defence Force units across the country, including maintenance of office buildings, connection of all military establishments to utilities and construction of dwelling units. In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, Sir, we have delivered. And we are delivering! But we need our collective support to develop our country. We have proven that Malawi can rise and shine if we work with patriotism, integrity and hardwork. We have tried and proven that we can transform this country. We have proven that we can make Malawi a prosperous nation. Now, let us move with that conviction.
God bless our country.