The World Bank public sector specialist Kate Bridges and social scientist Micheal Woolcock have advised government to shift approach to institutional reforms.
The duo in a paper titled How (Not) to Fix Problems That Matter: Assessing and Responding to Malawi’s History of Institutional Reform posted on the World Bank website, recommends the applicability of what are increasingly termed problem-driven approaches.
The paper argues that those interested in institutional reforms need to focus on solving problems rather than selling solutions.
Reads the paper in part: “Often, would-be reformers take a commonly used, highly designed and engineered best practice solution and transfer it to Malawi, hoping it will work here as it has in other countries.
“Analysis shows that it seldom does. If, however, reformers begin with a specific, functional problem and ensure that implementation progress is assessed not against indicators of a change in form, but against the core problem being fixed, then functional success is far more likely.”
The two said that if reforms are to be viable, legitimate and relevant, the process of reform design and implementation should engage as broad a set of agents as possible.
“Reformers should seek to establish broad-based communities of agents, including those needed to mobilise support, authorise change, provide reform content, facilitate procedure, supply finance and foster and maintain relationships.
“The role of external agents in influencing institutional reform should be minimal if the reform is to be successful.”
But Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferpanjira argues that unless there is little or no political interference in the running of key government institutions, achieving notable results in the implementation of reforms will not be possible.
He said the country may have well-meaning policies but the implementation can be awful because the country’s institutions such as Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and ministries are not strong and stand-alone.
Economist Gilbert Kachamba, who lectures at Catholic University of Malawi, agrees with Kaferapanjira, saying issues of institutional reforms are crucial, stressing the need for institutions to be independent to deliver the intended goals.
“We have reforms which are top-down but these have failed us. What we need is a bottom-up approach to these reforms such that the masses will own the reforms and that is the only way we can be bailed out of our misery,” he said.