The impoverished African country of Malawi, known in the U.S. more because of pop star Madonna, sold its presidential jet to raise cash for the government, officials said Wednesday.
The jet was one of the lavish legacies of late leader Bingu wa Mutharika who purchased the plane for $22 million in 2009. Reports stated that maintenance and insurance on the plane alone cost the Malawi government $300,000 annually.
More importantly, the airplane purchase angered Malawi’s benefactors. Britain, one of the country’s main donors, cut its largesse to the Malawi government by 3 million pounds after the purchase.
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Current Malawi President Joyce Banda, who took office in April 2012 after Mutharika died of a heart attack, made the sale of the jet a priority as she sought to repair the country’s economic damage and image.
Chintu Phiri, principal secretary in the office of the President and Cabinet, told Reuters that Virgin Islands company Bohnox Enterprise Ltd had beaten three other bidders for the 14-passenger Dassault Falcon 900EX aircraft.
“We have accepted their offer and we are waiting to hear from them,” Phiri said.
Banda had said the jet was a wasteful expense and that she would never fly in it. She is instituting austerity measures to try to revive the economy of a country that relies on donors for 40 percent of its budget.
Since taking office, Banda has also cut her salary by 30 percent, pledged to sell off 35 Mercedes Benz cars used by her cabinet and introduced a host of austerity measures.
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The Malawi government has been in a war of words with one of its most famous benefactors, Madonna, since last month. They accused her of demanding VIP treatment, including a meeting with Banda. A government spokesman also accused her of overstating her contributions, saying she announced that she built schools in the nation while she only helped construct classrooms in existing facilities.
The pop star shot down the reports as inaccurate, and pledged to continue helping educate young girls in the nation. Madonna adopted a son from Malawi in 2006, and her ties to the nation run deep. In addition to adopting a daughter three years later, she has several education projects in the nation.
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