I heard President Peter Mutharika saying government is in the process of establishing a National Development Committee (NDC) whose job will be to come up with an overarching development strategy for the government to follow irrespective of which political party is in power.
To make every future government follow the development strategy, it will be given legal teeth. Great idea indeed.
But wait a minute. When the President made this statement I was reminded of the High Level Development Council (HLDC) whose formation was announced on 9 January, 2014 by former President Joyce Banda. No politicking here. These are plain facts I am giving and I ask for the indulgence of your listening faculties.
The mandate of the HLDC was to provide leadership by reflecting on the past 50 years and advise government on the strategic options the country should consider in ensuring that Malawi’s long term development goals are realized.
The establishment of the HLDC was a noble idea as is the proposed formation of the NDC. The point I want to make here is that Malawi needs such think-tanks if it is to develop so that good development strategies are not limited to electoral cycles.
The HLDC was formed against the backdrop of a battered economy that was on the turn. The economy was growing at 5 per cent from 1.8 per cent in 2012. Foreign exchange reserves were at more than two months cover from under one month in 2012. The country’s industries were operating at more than 75 per cent production capacity from 30 per cent in 2012. Electricity generation capacity had been increased to 351 mega watts from 287 mega watts in 2012. Human rights had been restored following the repeal of many draconian laws passed between 2010 and 2012.
The Terms of References (TORs) for the HLDC were to ensure that Malawi identifies ‘‘development tablets that would guide the country’s development agenda regardless of which government or political party is in power”. These were the specific TORs:
- Analyse the status of our development after fifty years of independence: identifying lessons, successes and challenges;
- Based on the above, provide strategic direction on the next long term vision;
- Advising Government on strategic options as well as quick win strategies for implementing development reform programme in the short and long term;
- Advising on the road map for policy and development programmes’ implementation;
- Consider and advise on emerging issues on social and economic policies affecting national development;
- Advising on the linkages and synergies on country development frameworks;
- Strengthen national effort in resource mobilization to support national development;
- Facilitate national consultations with all interest groups on socio economic development to bring change of mindset in order to strengthen ownership and adherence to implementation of national development plans, and;
- Facilitate institutionalization of the culture of national debate and dialogue on development issues.
The main disjoint in Malawi’s development efforts stems from lack of national ownership of development plans. The country’s development plans have lacked institutional ownership to remind Government to remain focused on the long term perspectives as planned.
The HLDC was the culmination of debates by many stakeholders which noted the need for the country to have an agency to steer the development plans which must be insulated against negative political influence.
On 6 July, 2015, Malawi attained 51 years of independence. A critical assessment of the outcomes over the past 51 years reveals that the country has failed to meet most of its development goals and aspirations. There is consensus that most Malawians today are poorer than was the case at independence. More than 65 percent of Malawians are living below the poverty line of less than $2.00 per day. This is a clear indictment on the country’s development agenda.
Although the country’s primary education is free, many of children learn under trees and in some cases in open air. Despite having district hospitals all over the country – except in Blantyre, Zomba, Lilongwe and Mzuzu where there are referrals only – people in Malawi still die unnecessarily of curable diseases due to shortage of essential drugs and facilities.
Even though Malawians are a hard-working people, more than 2.8 million people this year are facing severe food shortage. Fifty one years down the line, the country’s agriculture remains less developed, characterized by low technology absorption levels and low productivity.
Fast Lane readers allow me now to quote excerpts of the speech delivered at the launch of the HLDC.
‘‘Malawi has the resources needed for development. But the people have a mindset that is dependent on others for our development. Therefore there is need for a new configuration in driving Malawi’s transformation in the next fifty years.
‘‘This will entail urgent review of the Core Function Analysis of the work of various ministries and related development institutions with a view to identifying their contribution and current challenges in the transformation of our economy. Of importance is to focus on “game changers, paradigm shifts” that will make a difference in fast tracking socio economic transformation of our economy. The special focus should be on enhancing rural transformation including wealth creation, job creation, hunger reduction and the role of the private sector.’’
Is this reminiscent of the Reform Programme being championed by the Vice President?
The HLDC had 23 part-time members who were appointed because of their expertise, experience, ability and potential to contribute to a long-term, dynamic and sustainable development plan for the country. The Chief Secretary to Government and the Principal Secretary of Economic Planning and Development were to serve as Ex-officio Members.
The immediate task of the council was to make sector specific consultations that would input into a National Forum on Malawi to draw up a Plan that would harmonise and inform the implementation of the country’s various development frameworks.
Then there were elections and a new government came into power. These good ideas are now being championed as brand new plans. Have I drafted the TORs and the speech for the launch of the NDC? Maybe that does not matter because if the plans materialise it is the same Malawians that will benefit. The NDC like the HLDC is a good idea. Let us all support it.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :