The Malawi EconomicJusticeNetwork (Mejn) has recommended that the incoming government in roughly 30 days from today should prioritizethe work of weaning the country from donor dependence and taking it towards economic independence.
A broad civil society coalition that campaigns for just economic policies in Malawi, Mejn observed that all conditions on the display cabinet show that Malawi does not have the luxury of time to continue relying on foreign alms to sustain itself.
Responding to our questionnaire on the direction that the country should take after the May 20 elections, Mejn executive director Dalitso Kubalasa said: “It will obviously be foolhardy for government to continue burying its head in sand without thinking of an alternative plan.”
“We need to embark on, strategically and as fast as we can, on the long journey on this winding path towards economic independence, alongside the much needed fiscal prudence and discipline,” recommended Kubalasa at a time when political parties are criss-crossing the country courting voters.
In the manifestos of the four leading political parties, only the United Democratic Front (UDF) does not recognise the need to make Malawi self-sustaining.But the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) move beyond acknowledgement of the problem to outline their strategies for addressing it.
The DPP says it will run a zero-deficit budget and borrow money only for development and economic growth; ensure that Malawi meaningfully participates on the international market; and engage donors to embrace home grown policies by doing away with one-size-fits-all approaches.
The party further says it will negotiate with creditors to write off old loans by converting them into grants to give Malawi a fresh start.
The MCP says the party will move the country towards self-sustenance through investment, equity participation, and the search for new definitions of structural adjustment and economic reforms to suit the emerging plural democracy in Malawi.
The People’s Party (PP) only says it will mobilise alternative finances and resources to reduce dependence on donors by 30 percent in five to 10 years. It does not say how these resources and finances will be mobilised.
Historically (since 1964 to date), Malawi’s macro-economic structure has been so dependent on external support. At the same time both bi-lateral and multi-lateral aid flows to Malawi have been as volatile and quite unpredictable, just as the national political and economic governance trends have been.
According to Kubalasa, considering the continuing fragilities and uncertainties, it is still unlikely in the short to medium-term that there will be any substantial increases in aid or indeed disbursements (budget support and dedicated grants).
Moreover, he said, the nature of political and policy debates about aid in the donor countries centering on substituting trade for aid, exacerbates the uncertainties of even sustaining current levels of aid in the medium to long-term.
Kubalasa argued that while Malawi still needs any token of predictable aid support as additional and bonus boost to local revenues, continued over dependence on external support.