On the Fast Lane of Malawi: Of recycled ideas and rebranding them as one’s own

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.

On the Fast Lane: Steven Nhlane

On the Fast Lane: Steven Nhlane

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.

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wiza
Guest
The problem we have is self denial/not knowing what we want and selfishness. The me in me is us in me. Whoever conditioned us to call each other a ‘sir’ is the problem. The president would very much want to be addressed as a ‘sir’ and goes down the line. If Malawians had learned ownership of what their friends have started we would have been 30 years ahead of what we are now. Cry my beloved Nyasaland. Politiking nthawi zonse. This is not the time to comment on campaign events. Cow for a family a very important project for the… Read more »
Charombanthu
Guest
I entirely agree with you Steve and I doubt if Chikopa (No.6) has read the entire article. The problem that our leaders have is that they want to erase everything that their predecessors started or hatched – there is no continuity. It all started with Muluzi who wanted to get rid of everything that Kamuzu had put in place or dreamed to put in place. I am not DPP, MCP and surely I am not PP but I am Malawian. Bingu never put in place an NCD or the HLDC (or did he?); but one can clearly and easily point… Read more »
Nkhwatakwata
Guest

When we say we are poorer today than 51 years ago, do we use the same criteria? Certainly not, I think Malawi has progressed relative to its neighbours by the mere fact that we have witnessed Zambians, Tanzanians, West Africans and in the last years Zimbabweans as economic asylum seekers, but the fact is we could have done better if we had maintained Kamuzu’s economic pace!

M'Malawi Weniweni
Guest

I am surprised that many Malawians (me excluded) think a National Development committee should legally bind a government about development agenda. Then what will differentiate political party agendas in election if each party will be bound by NDC’s agenda. We can as well have a one party in that case.

MALOPA Jnr
Guest

Number one bootlicker in the country is Goodall Gondwe. Nsetete za munthu. Kwathu ku NU but no tangible development to point. The only development which is in Ntcheu is as a result of M1 passing thru the Ntcheu Trading Centre. Mazoba a anthu include ntcheu people who just vote without reason. Demeti

Chikopa
Guest

Mr. Nhlane, I want to remind you that success only comes when you put an idea into a physical/tangible form. The previous regime talked about TORs or whatever you may call them. BUT did they put them on the ground? This new Kahuna is dreaming of making the plans a reality. What is the problem? He is not borrowing leaf from someone but from himself. Give him a break and let him Dream in Colours.

pat
Guest

Kodi Steve amayi abwera liti? Mwayamba kununkha umasiyetu ana a amayi. Brian Banda ali bwanji? Osadandaula zinthu zimasintha pano achina Justice Mponda naonso adyerere nawo

Achiwechetaga
Guest
Malawians really suffer from a deep-rooted distrust of ourselves. We mostly appreciate ideas from foreigners. That must stop if progress is to be at. First, we need people with rational vision and mission/action. To achieve that, we need to assess what individuals do, not their paper indicators of merit called “certificates”. Surely one weakness of western education is reliance on certificates for proof of confidence. History is full of individuals whose successes have refuted this misconception of life. Bill Gates, Bakili Muluzi, John Major, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Jacob Zuma are few of the people who succeeded in reaching… Read more »
Kaziulika Chimugonda
Guest

This kind of politics will not take us anywhere. Every new administration wants a credit for recycled developemental strategies as their own. Thus why we are not going forward in terms of development. Some clever advisors get financial rewards after present recycled developmental strategies to the President. Then, the President presents it as his own brainchild to the Nation, not knowing that he has been fooled. What a Shame!!

Balamanthu
Guest

Steve-Good analysis.We have too many talkers, bootlickers and less action oriented people in our politics.Even when the NDC is born, managed by the same recycled politicians, it will not work.Apart from hunger, disease and envy, we now have three additional enemeies of progress-CORRUPTION AND THEFT, NEPOSTISM AND SHEER LAZINESS by the citizenry.Worse still, we have the same set of politicians who consider politics as cheating the masses because Malawians easily forget and will continue to be cheated again and again!

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