Political, economic cost of coronavirus on Malawi

Health workers wearing masks to prevent them from Coronavirus

An economist Wilson Gondwe has described the coronavirus pandemic as a hard and tough call for poor economies like Malawi which have been battling with an economic crisis for long.

Gondwe who works with the audit firm BDO noted that from a sluggish growth, deteriorating public finances, high rate of unemployment to power outages, coronavirus is bad news for the country.

On the country’s stance to still keep the borders open considering the shutdowns in neighbouring countries, he viewed the move as both political and tricky adding that it will mean Malawi having no imports and exports into the country.

“What we should do is to make sure that at each entry port, there must be well trained health officers who will be able to monitor any item, food stuffs that comes in; and we should make sure that we have quarantine points at all the borders and airports,” said the economist.

Commenting on how the COVID-19 scare will impact on the impending fresh elections, he indicated that this puts the government and all the stakeholders in a fix as they are all scrambling to figure out how to allow voters to cast their ballots safely, or to postpone the election entirely.

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Gondwe: There must be trained health workers to monitor food stuffs coming in Malawi

“If we are to vote, most likely the government will have to make sure that it provides sufficient cleaning supplies to polling places and they must ensure that there will be enough poll workers. Consider we have a tight budget now.

“The big question however is, if the virus continues to infect large numbers of people, how can the presidential election take place safely” wondered Gondwe

In the wake of the virus, the economist pointed out that the biggest winner is the government which according to his assessment, will do anything just to frustrate other interested parties and judging from its conduct, it has somewhat grown cold feet in as far as holding the fresh polls is concerned.

Peter Mutharika and the Malawi Electoral Commission first and second respondents respectively in the elections case have filed an appeal before the courts challenging the Constitution court’s ruling which nullified the 2019 elections owing to the massive irregularities.

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Alliance partners: Against Ansah's handling of the upcoming fresh polls

On the other hand, the Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson Jane Ansah and her Commissioners insist on handling the fresh elections despite been found wanting and incompetent by the February 3 court judgment.

The opposition parties Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and UTM have expressed their dismay over what they view as contempt and described the arrogant attitude as an assault on Malawi’s Constitutionalism saying its dangerous noting that the nation has already paid dearly for the Commission’s incompetence

On its part, the Ministry of Finance has acknowledged how the COVID-19 scare has taken governments unawares and the magnitude of its impact on the global economy.

Treasury spokesperson Davies Sado noted that it has a potential of affecting some of the economic forecasts which were there as they were based on certain prevailing assumptions and continued stability on the business environment.

He cited tourism and international transport as some sectors which might be directly and quickly be affected by the pandemic and spoke on measures Treasury will undertake to mitigate the impact.

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Sado: Treasury making an assessment on the potential impact of coronavirus

“What we are doing is making an assessment on the potential impact the epidemic might cause and it is that assessment that will help in mapping a way-forward.

“Very soon the Ministry should be coming up with a direction and actual projected growth figures; but as of now we remain optimistic as fore-casted by the Minister during the Midyear budget statement,” said Sado.

He stated that the lock down happening in Malawi’s traditional trading countries like South Africa could have an impact on the trade related taxes the country collects.

So far, Malawi has no reported case of the virus but has over 500 people in quarantine having travelled to affected countries.