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Malawi sells jet to avert food crisis

Presidency sells plane for $15m to feed poor and grow crops to fight malnutrition in southern African country.

Last Modified: 06 Sep 2013 20:06
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President Banda has introduced a host of cost-cutting measures since taking office [Al Jazeera]

Malawi will use $15m from the sale of the country's presidential jet to feed the poor and grow crops to
fight malnutrition, an official has said.

"It was a collective government decision that the money realised from the sale of the jet will be used to purchase maize locally and some for legume production," said Nations Msowoya, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance.

Food experts have said 10 percent of the country's 13 million citizens face food shortages this year.

President Joyce Banda decided last year to sell the jet, bought by her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika for $22m, due to the cost of running it.

Former colonial power Britain, Malawi's main bilateral donor, reduced its aid to Malawi by $4.7m after the 14-passenger aircraft was purchased.

Mutharika, who died last year from heart attack, often defended the buying of the jet, saying it was cheap to run and a status symbol for the poor southern African nation.

'Looming food crisis'

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In July, the United Kingdom said it would provide Malawi with $20m to alleviate  the "looming food crisis" in southern Africa.

Lynne Featherstone, the UK's international development minister, said the funds would "save countless lives".

Malawi, which was a net exporter of maize just a few years ago, has now seen stocks depleted to a quarter of its annual average after the worst harvest in seven years

Price hikes and unpredictable weather have left food stocks dangerously low in the region, the government said.

Since taking office, Banda has introduced a host of cost-cutting measures and uses commercial airlines to travel outside the country.

The presidential aircraft was auctioned off to a Virgin Islands company, Bohnox Enterprise Ltd and the deal was announced in May.

The luxury jet cost Malawi about $300,000 a year in maintenance and insurance, a government official revealed.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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