By IOMMIE CHIWALO
While Illovo sugar company has threatened to seek court redress against issuance of import licenses, the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has written the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry to immediately conduct a public inquiry on sugar production and pricing in the country.
In a statement signed by CDEDI Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa, gauging from the massive prevailing reactions, it is clear that Malawi is sitting on a time-bomb by weighing in sugar production, pricing and tax regimes since it is clear that Malawians are paying a lot for sugar and most other basic commodities.
“It is against this backdrop that CDEDI decided to write PAC to invoke its constitutional powers to set up a public inquiry to help Malawians understand why they are being made to pay through the nose for basic commodities such as sugar,” he said.
Namiwa is optimistic that through the public inquiry, Malawians will know whether the tax regime prevailing in the sugar industry was designed in their interest.
The call follows a meeting that Minister of Trade and Industry Hon Simplex Chithyola held on Monday, June 5, 2023, with selected stakeholders in the sugar industry in reaction to the leaked correspondence from Illovo Sugar Company dated May 9, 2023 under the headline ISSUE OF A SUGAR IMPORT LICENSE BY THE MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY.
He said elsewhere, governments formulate laws and regulations that protect low income earners from exploitation, while on the other hand promoting competition as opposed to shielding monopolies.
The CDEDI Chief has since demanded for transparency and accountability from the Malawi Revenue Authority, the Ministry of Finance and other relevant government authorities by justifying the current tax arrangement and the motivation behind the same.
Namiwa has also demanded a complete overhaul of laws that protect selfish business interests because the fall of sugar prices will lead to an instant fall of many other basic commodities.
“Needless to remind Malawians that any piece of legislation that does not serve them is a bad law that ought to be rejected. In the same vein, we demand a complete overhaul of laws that protect selfish business interests and, thereby, punishing the same people the law is supposed to protect and serve,” he said.
Adding that the indulgence of PAC and the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry on this matter is desired by Malawians, especially the poor that struggle to meet daily needs.
“Last but not the least, CDEDI assures the nation that it will not rest until sugar prices fall. If sugar is an affordable basic commodity in neighbouring countries, why should it be beyond the reach of the majority of Malawians? Malawians deserve decent living too,” he said.
Meanwhile Illovo Sugar Malawi, Managing Director, Lekani Katandula has released a press release addressing cane growers whose contents are nothing but a call to anger stakeholders so that they can protest against issuance of import licenses to private business traders.
Katandula has opted to ignore the prices of sugar in neighbouring countries and is only happy that his company has registered a whopping 702% profit at the expense of poor Malawians.
Taking it from sugar prices in the neighbouring countries, for instance in Zambia, a kilogramme of sugar sells at a maximum of US$0.90 (approximately MK924.60); In Mozambique it is pegged at US$ 0.46 (an equivalent of MK472.58) while in Tanzania a kilogramme of the commodity fetches US$0.45(approximately MK465.42).