Malawi Government has proposed changes to the development strategy, identifying five priority areas for the next five years, a departure from the nine contained in the last two Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) blueprints.
In the new strategy, government said it would align flagship projects to the priority areas, but donors under the Development Cooperation Group (DCG) have cautioned central government not to inundate itself with unrealistic projects given the increasing resources scarcity.
Briefing the DCG which comprises key government heads and development partners in Lilongwe yesterday, Ministry of Finance chief economist Sipho Billiat said the next development strategy currently being developed would focus on fewer priority areas.
These would be: Agriculture and climate change management; education and skills development; energy and industrial development; transport and ICT infrastructure; and health and population management.
The proposed theme for the National Development Strategy as it is being described now would be Building a Competitive and Productive Nation.
According to the Ministry of Finance, attaching a flagship project to each priority will ensure that the projects are adequately financed.
“This approach will ensure that tangible results are realised at the end of the five years,” said Billiat.
The MGDS II expired in June last year and government is still developing a new strategy which has delayed awaiting the establishment of the National Planning Commission.
Following the assent to the National Planning Commission Act, commissioners would be appointed who would then recruit a director general and other staff to complete the process of developing the new strategy.
Reacting to the presentation on the new strategy and NPC, co-chair of the DCG, Norwegian Ambassador Kikkan Haugen said it had been the concern of development partners that the government should get its priorities right from the start.
“Resources are scarce and we should make sure we use the little available as wisely as possible. With each area having a flagship project, I know some development partners have voiced concerns about the analytical capacity of the National Planning Commission in ensuring that we spend the limited resources on the most important projects that will give the highest return,” Haugen said.
The European Union also hoped that the identified priorities would reflect the concerns of people and focus on main challenges the country would be facing in the next five years.
“We noticed that there is no reference to cross-cutting issues such as gender, population growth, youth and governance. These need to be effectively addressed to ensure a conducive environment for sustainable growth,” EU head of cooperation Lluis Navarro said.
The EU also asked the government to streamline the ‘large’ number of policies yet to be adopted, among them National Resilience Plan, Nutrition Policy and Cultural Policy.
World Bank senior agriculture specialist Valens Mwumvaneza said it was critical that youth and job creation be prioritised in the strategy since there was a high population of youth under 19.
Responding to the concerns on the capacity of the NPC, Billiat said the NPC would have experts in the field of development planning picked on merit as well as a research component.
The new plan comes against a background of MGDS II failing to achieve its objectives, largely due to insufficient political will, overestimated revenues, underestimated expenditure and high government borrowing from the local market.
The MGDS II assessment report also showed that inconsistencies of budgeting strategy made its implementation harder.