Malawi President Joyce Banda has lived up to her vow to sell off the presidential jet which her predecessor bought in controversial circumstances.
“Yes, we have finally identified a buyer for the presidential jet we put on auction,” said Cabinet clerk Ernest Katchetche.
Principal Secretary in the office of the President and Cabinet Chintu Phiri identified the winning bidder as Bohnox Enterprise Ltd of Virgin Islands, which beat three other bidders and offered to buy the French-made jet for US$15m
“We have communicated to them and we’re waiting to hear from them to sign the sale agreement,” he said. Government initially asked for US$20m for the jet.
President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in April last year from cardiac arrest complications, bought the luxury 14-passenger Dassault Falcon 900EX aircraft at a reported sum of US$22m.
Western donor nations and opposition leaders denounced the move, calling it an “unsustainable luxury” for an impoverished economy like Malawi’s.
Maintenance and insurance costs alone ran upwards of US$300,000 per annum.
Britain, Malawi’s largest aid donor, reacted by cutting its aid to Malawi by US £3 million (about US$4.5m) per year.
After assuming office, President Banda promised to sell-off not only the jet but also a fleet of 35 Mercedes Benz limousines used by her cabinet members, as part of her administration’s austerity measures. She also took a 30 per cent cut in her monthly salary.
Finance Minister Ken Lipenga said the sale of the jet shows the Banda administration’s commitment to austerity measures, adding: “This is just one of the many ways government is following to cut costs.”
Malawi depends on donors for 40 per cent of its budget.