Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) executive director Nelson Mkandawire has said the High Level Development Council (HLDC), which President Joyce Banda recently established lacks a home-grown shared national agenda that transcends political boundaries.
Mkandawire, who in a write-up yesterday described the council’s formation and its timing as ‘rather unfortunate’, also doubted the involvement of many stakeholders, including professional bodies, in the council.
He observed that Malawi is in a democracy; hence, its tenets need to be upheld at all times by the Executive.
Said the Ecama boss: “In coming up with such a High Level Development Council, we would have appreciated if the initiative was guided by a home-grown shared national agenda transcending political boundaries, ensuring efficiency and commitment to deliver quality services to all stakeholders.”
Last week, the President instituted a 23-member council aimed at reflecting Malawi’s 50 years of self-rule and shaping the future.
The group, chaired by Press Corporation Limited (PCL) group chief executive Matthews Chikaonda, comprises representatives from the business, academic and faith-based groups and other sectors.
Mkandawire, while acknowledging contributions from many sectors of Malawi society, said Ecama made similar recommendations in support of the need to establish a National Development Umbrella Body during the 2012 and 2013 conferences of which President Banda attended.
“By a home-grown shared national agenda that transcends political boundary, we envision that the establishment of such a body, including its terms of reference would be participatory in nature,” added Mkandawire.
He said as Malawi clocks 50 years of political independence, the country needs a shared long-term national agenda.
Mkandawire stated that it would be difficult for opposition political parties to accept the council, saying they may argue that it has been formed before an Act of Parliament ‘and it is more of a discussion forum without an operational secretariat’.
He added: “It will be a sad development if the council may be rejected in Parliament then it dissolves and you come up with another one yet resources will have been spent that could have been avoided.”
Parliament is expected to legislate the council soon after May 20 Tripartite Elections.
According to Mkandawire, while appreciating the establishment of the council, said in coming up with such a body, selection should be on merit and on professional basis to ensure that we embrace all sectors.
“I am thinking of engineering, finance, agriculture, geology, business administrators, legal, religious embrace, traditional leaders, human rights, education, health, etc, to ensure that issues are looked at professionally without bias or favour.”
Government spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira yesterday could not pick up his mobile phone when The Nationcalled to comment on Mkandawire’s statements on the council.
But when she announced the establishment of the council on January 9, the President said it is charged with an immediate task of convening sector specific consultations that form part of the agenda of a National Forum on Malawi at 50 to be held on March 5 2014.
During the launch, Chikaonda described the council as independent and non-partisan, asking for support from all Malawians to fulfil its mandate.
He acknowledged the challenge before the council, but said failure is not an option.