Malawi, through the National Planning Commission (NPC), should design the country’s development strategies that have realistic and achievable targets, an international development studies expert has advised.
Speaking in Lilongwe on Monday during a Stakeholders Inception Meeting for the Review of the Vision 2020, Oliver Saasa, Lusaka-based professor of international economic relations and a long-time lecturer at the University of Zambia, observed that the Vision 2020 document suffered a protracted process.
Vision 2020 is presently the country’s national long-term development, which is set to expire next year
He said: “It [Vision 2020] was also heavily loaded and very bulky if you look at the list of those people involved [in crafting the document]. A development strategy is supposed to be guided by realism. One hopes that this is not going to be the case with the successor to Vision 2020.”
Saasa is the proprietor and managing consultant for Premier Consult Limited, a Zambia-based firm tasked to review and evaluate Vision 2020 for Malawi Government with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Despite registering some economic gains, it was learnt during the meeting that many targets that underpin Vision 2020, developed in March 1998, were “too ambitious”; hence, not
achievable come next year.
For instance, the Vision 2020 aspired to increase the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita to $1 000 (about K740 000) annually to attain the middle-income status. But currently, Malawi’s GDP per capita income stands at $400 (about K296 000) as of 2018.
Saasa also said while it was important for the country to grow its national income and the economy by high rates, on the other hand, that does not automatically translate into improved living standards for citizens.
“You can grow your economy, but still income levels can be skewed. At the same time, poverty levels can worsen. Zambia, for example, is a lower middle income country with per capita income of $1 400 [about K1 036 000], but Lusaka is sandwiched by shanty compounds and unplanned settlements yet we have been posting real GDP growth rates of about seven percent.
“Growing the economy is important, but is not sufficient in itself; hence, the need for national planning to help redistribute the wealth,” he said.
On a positive note, Saasa commended Malawi for ensuring that the implementation of Vision 2020 was aided by the successful implementation of short and medium-term national development strategies such as Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy (MPRS 2002-2005) and the three Malawi Growth and Development Strategies (MGDS) one, two and three, covering a period between 2017 and 2022.
In his remarks, NPC director general Thomas Munthali described the review as crucial, saying it will help the commission to identify the strengths, challenges and weaknesses of Vision 2020 at the design, operationalisation and monitoring of interventions during the implementation period.
He said the purpose is to analyse the Malawi Vision 2020 to draw lessons within the country and from other countries where development and implementation of long- term visions and their supporting medium-term plans have borne desired results.
Currently, Malawi is developing a successor blueprint to the Vision 2020 which will be called National Transformational 2063 which aligns to the Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among others.