Africa-Press – Malawi. Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) has appealed on the Government not to invest in free electricity connections but rather on power generation, whose current levels of generation are “pathetic and too low”.
In a statement, CAMA Executive Director, John Kapito said power generation requires huge investment in order to have the capacity to connect everyone “and for that matter free”.
“Why can’t the Government invest in electricity generation if it has such resources?” Kapito asks. “Why can’t Government reduce the current high electricity tariff which most consumers can’t afford?”
On Friday, during Face the Press in Lilongwe, acting Chief Executive Officer Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) Clement Kanyama announced that Government will need to mobilize K8 billion to roll out the free electricity connection by the end of this year.
Accompanied by Minister of Information Gospel Kazako, Kanyama said the government, through the Ministry of Energy, is finalizing the process of identifying finances for the project.
“This is a huge program we will embark on by the end of this year to make sure people have a free connection,” he said.
But Kapito maintains that Malawians are already paying higher taxes and one of them is the Malawi Rural Electrification Program (MAREP), which is intended to provide electricity connections to consumers in both peri-urban and rural communities.”
Kapito contends that MAREP collects huge sums of money in form of tax that for years the Government has failed to account for and show how much it has impacted on access to electricity.
He also asks the Government to explain in detail where it is going to get the money to provide such an expensive free electricity connection program. “It is high time, therefore, that Government stopped cheating about free services.”
During Face the Press briefing, Kanyama had said guidelines to have the policy that will implement the program have already been developed, which have accommodated MAREP to make sure that there is no duplication of the program.
He added that the company will be extending electricity to 90,000 customers every year since the company is overwhelmed with clients who want to connect to the grid.
He revealed that the government has secured $150 million to carry out the exercise, which will commence in March, 2022 in order for every deserving Malawian to have access to electricity so that Malawi achieves universal coverage.
However, Kapito took cognizance that the Tonse Alliance — led by President Lazarus Chakwera-led Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Vice-President Saulos Chilima-led UTM Party — made a number of economic and social promises to Malawians during their political campaigns, most of which “are unrealistic given the current economic situation that Malawi finds itself in”.
“The Malawi Government is currently broke and bleeding with huge debts and its consumers are heavily choked with higher taxes and levies which have contributed to the high cost of living ever experienced by Malawians.
“The Malawi Government is currently struggling to pay for the most basic essential services and goods that Malawians are demanding.
“The economy has also been heavily battered by the CoVID-19 pandemic making it even harder for Government to implement any social programs.”
Rather than offering free electricity connections, Kapito suggests that the Government should consider investing in key social sectors such as health, education — which have “completely collapsed” and to upgrade the “current poor housing infrastructure which is mostly grass thatched”.
Kapito described the free electricity connection program as “another way of creating projects that are prone to corruption and abuse of resources for the very same poor people’s taxes”.
“It is a fact that Government cannot implement a free program without subjecting the very same consumers to pay high taxes. We are therefore appealing to the Government to withdraw most of their political campaign promises that were made as most of the promises were unrealistic, unachievable and mere dreams that cannot be implemented.”
CAMA also highlights that the Government “is already failing to implement the subsidized Agriculture Input Program (AIP)” and finds it preposterous that it should give higher priority on free electricity connections.
“Is this really a priority for the struggling Malawians at the moment? The Malawian consumer can no longer afford to pay any further taxes in the name of being provided free social services.
“We are appealing to every Malawian to reject these politically motivated projects that are poorly planned with no resources,” Kapito said.
In his remarks during the Face the Press, Minister Kazako urged Malawians to exercise patience as the government is addressing so many challenges faced by Malawians, including electricity.
He said the Tonse Government is doing everything possible to make sure it gives what Malawians were promised during the campaign period, saying the much-touted one million jobs cannot be achieved if the country continues to struggle with electricity.
Recently, Malawi and Mozambique launched construction works for the two countries power transmission interconnection project to increase power services for Malawians.
The launch was presided over by President Lazarus Chakwera and his Mozambique counterpart Filipe Jacinto Nyusi at Phombeya substation in Balaka District.