Malawi to build diplomatic offices to cut costs
By Penelope Paliani-Kamanga
The Malawi government has said it plans to acquire permanent structures in all its diplomatic missions abroad in order to cut costs.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Dalitso Kabambe, disclosed this last week when he toured the newly constructed Malawi High Commission offices in Lusaka which cost about US$4,6 million.
Kabambe said that this was just the beginning of the government’s quest to cut costs.
The first diplomatic missions to benefit from the initiative are those in Harare, Tokyo, Pretoria, Nairobi and Newyork.
“Our rentals budget for chanceries, for rentals as well as diplomats houses is around US$4million in the current budget. But if we have many of our own structures across countries where we have embassies and missions, then we can certainly reduce as a country these large amounts of money which we are paying in various foreign currencies,” he said.
Kambambe said that the chanceries were very expensive to rent.
“For instance in New York, we are paying US$30,000 monthly while in Tokyo we are paying US$35,000 but then if we purchase our own office space, we will massively cut down on costs.
“The first diplomatic missions to benefit from the initiative are those in Harare, Tokyo, Pretoria, Nairobi and New York,” he said. Malawi’s High Commissioner to Zambia, Warren Gunda, said the benefits of having heir own building cannot be overemphasized.
“Since independence, and since we set up a mission here in Zambia we have been renting and we have been paying a lot of money and we have been paying in US dollars.
“But the fact that the government decided to construct our offices will be beneficial. The money saved from paying rent will be redirected to the actual operations of the mission which will include promoting trade, facilitating consular programmes and all things that we have included in our developing policy,” he said.
Gunda said that other than saving money, the people would easily locate their embassy unlike before. He said that the idea to build their own structure was hatched in 2010.
This is the second time that the government has taken steps to reduce costs in the diplomatic missions. Last year and in bid to cut costs, the government reduced the number of diplomats in established positions from 234 to 152 and on the other hand, the number of local staff in the foreign mission has gone down from 217 to 184.