As Malawiâ€™s economy continues to fall, Paida Mpaso talks to executive director of Malawi Economic Justice Network, (MEJN) Dalitso Kubalasa to give an insight on how bad the situation is and how effective is the countryâ€™s Economic Recovery Plan.
Donors, civil society groups have complained of President Joyce Bandaâ€™s foreign and domestic travels, saying that is a waste of public resources at a time the economy needs to recover. What do you think is the effect of the presidencyâ€™s travel to the economy?
The key question we have to be asking is; are we being cost effective with these? If the answer is yes, after looking at the cost and benefits of such travels, then that would be okay; but it is an open secret that most of these do not seem to be close to being cost-effective (for instance, we hear of spending of over K13 million in a local trip, just to help distribute K2.4million worth of maize!).
If looked at this way, when we have so many pertinent issues in need of support for the very same poor paying the taxes in schools and health centres, then we would obviously not be helping matters.
We are going through extremely difficult times economically and socially as a country like never ever before! This is, therefore, the time we need to be walking the talk of technical efficiency and austerity, making the most of our hard-earned revenue. It is in this vein that we agree that we can do better, by being sensitive to the abnormal situation we are in, and doing everything in our powers to be on the right track towards recovery.
Government seems to be involved in foreign borrowing, taking into account the number of bills presented in Parliament. How bad is this borrowing in the short and long term?
For the borrowing, the main principle should be what are borrowing for and how are we ensuring that we get the outcomes (maximum value for money) we intend to get and not go on with business as usual of getting such expensive loans and not caring what happens to the projects we are supposed to implement.
The details in such loan agreements as usual are supposed to be open to the public to appreciate transparency and accountability issues surrounding it. This is not privileged information for the government alone because we are all going to pay through our taxes.
Briefly how can government enhance its implementation of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP)?
First of all we must make sure we Streamline and define the problem and gaps and clearly cost what we need at the minimum to get the recovery operationally going in the immediate (3 months), short to medium term (one year) and the long term (2â€“5 years). Every activity must have a minimum resource requirement because any decision to under-resource or under-fund what we will have defined as priority in the ERP, will be a decision to underperform or completely fail in the recovery process. You cannot manage what you havenâ€™t measured.
Secondly we need to also have targets and key performance indicators so that we know when we are there. You canâ€™t get lost if you donâ€™t know where you are going, so, as it is, the ERP without the indicators and targets would be open-ended and we wonâ€™t know if we are failing or not because we wonâ€™t know.
Thirdly, we need to clearly have implementation modalities that are owned and clearly inclusive to everybody else, particularly key stakeholders who should all play their part as government does its part.
Part of the solutions lie in the proper skills audit as well as an effective resource mobilisation, which should help drive the whole process of recovery through to the end with an effective monitoring and evaluation mechanism.
With the way the economy is right now, characterised by rising commodity prices, among others, how best can government help its people not to feel the pinch of the effects of the devaluation of the kwacha?
As part of the ERP process, mention is made in the short term (one year), it will be good to know exactly what is being rolled out as part of the social support packages that are not being clearly articulated. It will be helpful to focus any such support and investments with a hindsight to possible returns and this could be by focusing on the innovations towards the productive sectors that should help maximise the factors of production (capital, land and labor) to help the recovery process.