Blantyre, Malawi (PANA) - Finance Minister Ken Lipenga, has said no decision has been made yet on what to do with Malawi's controversial presidential jet.
"No decision has been made yet," he told PANA Sunday while reacting to reports in the British media that President Joyce Banda has decided to sell the jet. "We are looking at several options at how best to move forward."
When former President Bingu wa Mutharika bought the controversial 8.4 million pound Dassault Falcon 900EX jet, which has an annual running cost of 220,000 pounds, Britain - Malawi's largest aid donor - reacted by cutting aid to Malawi by 3 million pounds annually.
But Mutharika, who died suddenly on 4 April from cardiac arrest, defended the purchase, saying it was cheaper than leasing a jet whenever he travelled.
But when his successor Joyce Banda assumed office, she quickly went into a charm offensive by scrapping some of Mutharika's spendthrift policies and announced that her cabinet would decide what to do with the jet.
"If it were for me, I would sell it because I am already used to hitch-hiking," she said.
According to Lipenga, the Malawi government has engaged experts to advise it at how best to dispose off the jet.
"Madam President has made it clear she would prefer selling off the jet but we are exploring several options including selling it off or leasing it to an airline, say in South Africa," he said.
Lipenga said government would like to realise as much proceeds as possible from the jet.
At a joint press conference with President Banda on Thursday, British Minister for International Development Andrew Mitchell, praised the President for her "iconic" decision to board off the jet.
"At a time of austerity and difficulty in Britain too as well as in Malawi, the signal that Your Excellency has sent by saying that you would either sell or lease the presidential jet and get rid of some of the other highly questionable spending decisions that were made in the past in Malawi sends an enormously encouraging signal to the international community and to international donors about the seriousness which you, Madam President, are taking in addressing these difficulties," he said.
According to British newspapers, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph, President Banda also told Mitchell her government would sell off at least 60 gas-guzzling Mercedes limousines for ministers.
-0- PANA RT/VAO 3June2012