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Banda to talk to IMF, says some donors already on board

posted 10 Apr 2012, 12:56 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 10 Apr 2012, 12:57 ]

Malawi's new president, Joyce Banda, says suspended international aid will be restored, helping prop up a budget increasingly under strain after the previous president picked fights with overseas donors.

Foreign diplomats showed their support for Malawi's new president Joyce Banda by visiting her residence even before she had been officially installed, but so far there have been no concrete signs the West is preparing to restart the flow of aid.
Aid-dependent Malawi slid into economic crisis over the past year as former President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died on Thursday (April 5) of a heart attack, squabbled with major western donors who then froze millions of dollars of assistance that had traditionally bankrolled about 40 percent of the budget.

Banda told a news conference on Tuesday (April 10) that some donors might move quickly to restore aid.

"IMF have always wanted us to devalue. In your discussions have you tackled this issue, have you discussed this, and my answer is, I said in that statement, I am meeting them at 5 o'clock. So I have not yet even met them, so I will hear what they have to say. But the good news is that some of the donors that I am talking to are not going to wait for our programme with IMF to conclude, they will move fast to ensure that they are supporting us," she told a news conference in capital Lilongwe.

The IMF, which has suspended a 79 million US dollars aid facility due to conflict with Mutharika, wants to see Malawi's currency, the kwacha, further devalued, saying too much of the state's precious reserves are being used to defend it.

Malawi devalued the kwacha last year to 165 to the dollar from 150. On the black market, the price is nearly double, reaching 295 to the dollar just before Mutharika's death.

Banda has been swift to replace Mutharika loyalists. She sacked the chief of police on Monday (April 9) and on Tuesday also announced she was replacing the Reserve Bank governor, Secretary to the Treasury, and the information minister. She also sacked the head of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

"There is fear that in most offices people will be removed. There are so many rumours going around and my response was, what I haven't told you here hasn't happened at political level, on political appointments. But as far as the civil service proper is concerned, the chief secretary is in charge, he will move around officers as he feels fit. But I also hope Malawians will allow me that where I think it is critical for an officer to be moved to another office that I must effect. And I sincerely hope that Malawians are expecting this. Those that can wait, I will wait until we have the funeral. But where I think it is very, very critical to do it now, I shall do it," Banda explained.

Mutharika's body is expected to be repatriated from South Africa where he was taken last Thursday with the funeral expected some days after that.