National budget allocations towards the agriculture sector have for the past four years been declining, which has made the country’s economy fail to achieve a projected six percent GDP growth, an analysis has shown.
The Civil Society Agriculture Network (CisaNet) analysis of the 2019/20 National Budget, with financial support from Oxfam, also reveals that the sector’s 2019/20 allocation represents 10 percent of the K1.7 trillion National Budget; hence, barely conforming to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development.
Programme which spans from 2015 to 2025 and requires African governments to allocate a minimum of 10 percent of the annual national budget towards agriculture.
Presenting findings of their study on Tuesday before the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Irrigation, Natural Resources and Climate Change, CisaNet budget analyst Godwin Nyirongo said the K167 billion allocation to the agriculture sector represents six percentage points less of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III target of 16 percent allocation to the sector.
The 2019/20 Budget ranks agriculture the second prioritised sector with an allocation of K167 billion, up by 11.3 percent in the 2018/19 budget.
The increase is largely on account of increased allocation to a number of projects such as shire valley transformation–Phase I (K 18.9 billion–up by 84 percent) and the Agriculture commercialisation (K13.1 billion–up by 71 percent).
Said Nyirongo: “The sector budget has, for the past years, been decreasing from 18 percent in 2016/17 to 10 percent in 2019/20 and has been surpassed by the education sector budget which continues to dominate as the most prioritised sector in Malawi.”
In the 2019/20 National Budget, Nyirongo said K438 billion or seven percent of growth domestic product (GDP), has been allocated to development expenditure, representing 25.3 percent of the total budget and lauded the increase as barely pro-investment.
He said: “Even though the allocation to agriculture sector’s development expenditure is portrayed as to have fairy increased, a total of K233.3 billion or 70 percent of the development budget will be financed through foreign aid.
“This implies lack of government commitment to significantly fund its own investment agenda.
“Over-dependency on donor aid also implies the likelihood of projects not moving at the expected speed as donor resources are usually released with several conditionalities,” he bemoaned.
The analysis also faults the sector’s specific allocations to five main sub-sectors within the agriculture sector which reveals that agriculture productivity and risk management continue to get a lion’s share of the sector budget, claiming about 33.2 percent of the sector’s total budget, followed by management and administration at 31.7 percent and thirdly the sustainable rural development which gets an 18 percent share.
On his part, committee vice-chairperson Ulemu Chilapondwa agreed with CisaNet on the allocations towards sub-programmes in the sector, stressing that it was sad to note that livestock and fisheries sectors are not being adequately financed by the budget despite their optimal overall impact to the economy.
“These sectors [livestock and fisheries]
can improve the livelihood of many Malawians. There has to be an increase in the allocation towards these sectors,” said the former Cabinet minister. In Malawi, agriculture budget is guided by various policies and other related frameworks at global, regional, national and sector level.