CAMA pleads with government to reintroduce national public transportation policy and system

“It must be treated as any other utility provider and cannot just be relegated to untrusted and unregulated operators”

Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) has petitioned the Ministry of Transport and Public Works to consider reintroducing the national public transportation policy and system, saying it “must be treated as any other utility provider that cannot just be relegated to untrusted and unregulated operators”.

In its petition issued by executive director, John Kapito — that has been copied to the Ministry of Economic Planning & Development as well as of Information — the consumer watchdog contends that “Malawi’s economy is going through various reforms that have pro-growth strategies within them”.

“However, we continue experiencing challenges in certain key sectors that are key for the growth of the economy and affecting the livelihoods of many Malawians in both rural and urban areas.

“It’s sad to note that Government has completely abandoned to develop good and progressive National Public Transportation policies despite having a full Ministry to assist the many poor Malawian consumers that are subjected to abusive and unreliable transport system coupled with unrealistic fares.”

Kapito: Poor Malawians are at the receiving end

Kapito added that public transportation is one of the key economic growth pillars for a country like Malawi and this is not a sector that can be left completely in the hands of the private sector considering its contribution to the national economy.

He brought attention to the three Ministries Malawi had a robust public transportation system in the past years, “which the State was managing in order to address key serious challenges that vulnerable Malawian consumers in both urban and rural areas experienced”.

“Such a policy was able to cushion market prices as rural farmers and consumers were able to travel at relatively regulated fares and transport costs.”

Kapito also brought to attention that the Malawi economy went through some reforms under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) structural adjustment program and under this programme was the liberalization of key sectors of the economy including transportation.

“Malawi failed to think through about the economic implications of such reforms on key economic and social sectors such as “public transportation.

“Unfortunately, that failure to think through made or created public transportation challenges to the whole economy. No country has ever developed and registered growth without a regulated and trusted public transportation system and hoping that the private sector will do so for the common good.

“Considering that Malawi’s economy is predominantly agricultural-based and made up mostly of subsistence farmers that need access to markets, the liberalized public transport system that Malawi adopted has so far attributed to the collapse of market access by rural farmers and has created unaffordable transport costs for consumers.”

Kapito added that “the negative economic effects of liberalizing a key sector like public transportation without putting in place proper regulatory frameworks has a huge cost of a poor economy like Malawi”.

“With a liberalized public transport system, we have witnessed continuous ransoming and threats by the Private Transport Operators to both Government and consumers on issues of fares and accessibility.”

The IMF’s structural adjustment programme, Kapito continues, “replaced a well run national public transportation system that was accessible and affordable to most Malawians especially those in rural areas”.

“And it was able to improve the lives of so many Malawians who need a strong public transportation system now if it dreams of ever getting out of the current poverty situation as indicated.

“There will be no meaningful economic development without a robust well regulated public transport system and that is why all developed countries place it at the centre of their economic plans and strategies.”

Thus the consumer watchdog asks Ministry of Transport and other key Ministries that in coming up with such system and policy, they can possibly arrange for a “national debate if needed to address this particular economic growth area”.

Last month, government parastatal, Malawi Posts Corporation (MPC), announced that it has plans to invest into luxurious passenger bus services to commute in the country’s cities.

Acting Postmaster General, Zachaeus George Meke said this is part of turning from loss to profit making business-oriented parastatal in line with the reforms it has developed.

MPC manages intercity coach service that complemented its inter city courier service but going forward as “Malawians have now embraced the coach service”, Meke said, they “intend to increase the fleet for intercity coach services as well as introduce city busliners which will be very luxurious”.

“We had city busliners in the past and now it’s time Malawians enjoyed such services just like in other African countries, which operate luxurious city bus services,” Meke had said last month.

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