President Joyce Banda decided last year to sell the 14-passenger luxury jet, bought by her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika for $22m, due to the cost of running it – about $300,000 a year in maintenance and insurance. It was bought by a Virgin Islands company, Bohnox Enterprise Ltd.
The $15m price was used to feed poor and grow crops to fight malnutrition: “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 say that 10% of the country’s 13 million citizens face food shortages this year. 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, Al-Jazeera reports, Joyce Banda has introduced a host of cost-cutting measures and uses commercial airlines to travel outside the country. In 2012 she announced that she will take a 30% pay cut to show that she will sacrifice personally as part of her government’s austerity measures.