Atupele opens UDF policy conference: ‘Delivering change in Malawi’

Malawi opposition United Democratic Front  (UDF) presidential candidate Atupele Muluzi on Thursday opened the first ever national policy conference by a political party in Malawi  held in the capital Lilongwe with a call for Malawians to rise above party politics if the country is to achieve meaningful change.

In his opening address, the 35-year-old Atupele remarked that the root causes of Malawi’s challenges are, first, the state has failed to create wealth for all Malawian and to manage the economy and the country has a political system that allows the privileged few, to consume state resources for their own use while disregarding the voices of ordinary people.

“Malawi must create its wealth while protecting its poor. To do this, we must manage our public resources better and ensure that poor people, including the youth, have a say over how the country is run.

“Creating wealth for all Malawians rests on our ability to provide an enabling environment for this to happen. This means generating confidence of the private sector to invest in small, medium and large scale initiatives, guaranteeing our farmers that they will get their crops to market safely, providing the appropriate skills to all, especially our young men and women to get decent jobs in a market friendly environment. Alongside that, it is to develop a social protection system that will take care of our most vulnerable, whilst also guaranteeing them equal access to basic services such as education and health as well as other opportunities.”

Atupele Muluzi delivering his speech at UDF national policy conference

He added that to do this, the State has to master the discipline of managing its public purse in a manner that forces it to spend on the right priorities.

“This means that we must reform our political system in a manner that ensures that those in power recognize that it is in both their and ordinary Malawian’s interests not to abuse state resources and that they will be punished for doing so.

“Most importantly, the public has to feel confident that it has the appropriate channels to have their voice and needs heard. Malawians must see exactly where every kwacha is going. Leaders must ensure that where our resources are not reaching the people who need it, this must be tracked and stopped. We have no right to ask for resources from our external partners if we cannot manage our public purse transparently. Malawi must lead by example,” he said.

In his presentation, Atupele also noted that the quality of leadership absolutely matters, and a functional system is one that blends the youth and wisdom.

“It is in having these forces combined that will guarantee the delivery of a reform agenda that really works for Malawi. Leaders must live by example–as individuals, within a collective, in both private and public spheres. Leaders must commit to public service once they are chosen to serve.”

The youthful candidate noted that Malawi needs to build a culture that can prioritize; sequence and demonstrate results.

“We can’t do everything at once. We have finite resources. And we must be able to demonstrate tangible results to all Malawians against the use of these resources. This lies at the heart of any social contract between the state and its citizens. Malawi’s leadership, through its Cabinet, has to be at the center of infusing this culture across state and society. A credible Cabinet must set major policy priorities of government, make choices within those competing priorities through its national budget and hold it-self accountable to the people for delivering on measurable results.”

He further remarked that the country needs is a credible forum where Malawians can collectively develop solutions to address the challenges that the country faces.

The two day conference is being held under the theme Delivering Change in Malawi.

“This theme will reverberate all throughout this Policy Conference. Our mantra is that ‘it is not the what; but rather, it is the how that matters’,” he said.

He added: “The Policy Conference marks a new dawn to the way we conduct our business in Malawi. It marks a seismic shift from focusing on petty vendetta, personality politics and uninformed discourse, to a robust and well informed dialogue on what we must and should do to transform our society into a wealthy and well-governed nation.”

According to the UDF torch-bearer, the Policy Conference does not seek to re-invent the wheel but dwells on three unique vantage points.

“First, Malawians know and understand their problems. Second, the backbone for this Policy Conference is ‘Delivering Change in Malawi’; upon which we have synthesised two key tenets: inclusive growth and governance. These tenets have been further unpacked into four main cross-cutting themes that will deliberated and debated upon over the next two days.”

Atupele broke down the four sub-themes into sustainable jobs and wealth creation; protecting the poor and vulnerable; making the public purse work for all Malawians and operating a political system that guarantees the voice and participation of ordinary people.

“These themes are interconnected. Making progress on some improves prospects in others, and vice versa. This means that any plan to transforming Malawi will only be effective if it is directed into a coherent strategy that covers these four themes,” he said.

He noted that the four themes, taken together, form the backbone of Malawi’s economic, social and political transformation agenda.

The conference is being chaired by Dr Godfrey Chapola.

Agenda for Change: Atupele Muluzi after delivering his speech

The panel including former Reserve Bank Governor Victor Mbewe, Kholiwe Mkandawire and Faustance Chirwa discussing the opening address by Atupele Muluzi

A cross section of the delegates to the UDF national policy conference

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