The remarks made by Dr. Andrew Mwaba – the AfDB Resident Representative – at the opening of the Bi-Annual 2012 Common Approach to Budget Support (CABS) Review at Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe on May 8, 2012 cannot go without comment.
Before doing that it is in order to acknowledge support rendered by the CABS Development Partners, namely the United Kingdom, Norway, Germany, the European Union, the World Bank and the African Development Bank to Malawi over the years.
Judging from the dry and painful experience of the last two years or so, it is this support that buttressed our short-lived growth rate of +7% that puzzled the world. Therefore, a mucho gracias is in order.
Moving on to the issues at hand, according to the Joint Framework for Budget Support (JF), the CABS Review is supposed to focus on:
1. Poverty reduction implementation,
2. Macroeconomic issues,
3. The audit report for the FY 2010/11,
4. The Performance Assessment Framework (PAF) and
5. Preliminary assessment of the fiscal performance of the 2011/12 FY.
Now, all the items under focus are very pertinent to Malawi’s development agenda and coincidentally feature very highly on the agenda of both the Nyasa Times and its readership.
Budgetary support under current circumstances, whether we Malawians like it or not, is our lifeline with respect to both service provision and establishment and sustenance of macro-economic stability with respect to foreign exchange.
From recent experience, no-one will argue that without budgetary support, our private sector cannot grow because of lack of fuel and foreign exchange to import plant and equipment and raw materials.
This fact notwithstanding, budgetary support was on hold over the past year due to lack of progress on a number of principles including:
- commitment to sound macroeconomic management;
- commitment to good governance – including sound Public Financial Management; accountability and effective anti-corruption programmes;
- respect for human rights, democratic principles, and the rule of law.
Much as previous reviews highlighted the relevance and importance of adhering to these principles, the government of that day tended to over-politicize and over-simplify issues, often opting for the easy way out in the hope of dodging addressing these issues via contrarian podium rhetoric.
To run away from actually doing something on all these issues, all sorts of underhand tactics: including abuse of chiefs, intimidation and suppression of contrary views, appointment of individuals into key posts without due regard to merit, muzzling of the press, distortion of facts and thriving on falsehoods, and a general lackadaisical approach in moving forward was the order of the day.
What the chairperson of CABS said in his address is therefore not new and only a Malawian living in denial would write it off as “Washington Consensus” and therefore not worth taking note of.
Without repeating word for word of His Excellency Mwaba’s speech we want to highlight and request the Malawi Government for a business unusual approach on the following:
- Coming up with 2012/13 budget that can be funded; controls government borrowing and expenditure on non-essential items; while at the same times has the necessary safety nets for the poor;
- Defining measures to protect the most vulnerable groups from some of the negative impact of the structural adjustment that comes with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF) to restore growth to previous high levels while creating jobs; and, support productivity and diversification;
- Fostering and sustaining prudent economic management to urgently resolve and stabilize the economy;
- Creating and nourishing an environment where good political governance thrives and adhering to human rights principles as enshrined in the Malawi Constitution and other international charters including the immediate repeal of the contentious laws;
- Empowering the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Malawi Police Service and the Financial Intelligence Unit to operate professionally, expeditiously and without regard to the political affiliation of offenders;
- Avoiding, at any cost, a repeat of the shameful deception exhibited by the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) during the mid-year budget review;
- Paying particular attention in addressing gender related indicators – in particular, health, education and gender indicators targeting women and girls such as the pupil to qualified teacher ratio, girl survival rate in standard eight, and nurse to population ratio which continue to be missed;
- Timely, economic and effective utilization of resources for improving infrastructure on which slow progress has been an issue;
- Eradication corruption in major social and economic programmes including FISP (seeds and fertilizer) and procurement of medicines; and
- Ensuring that the people tasked to lead in all these initiatives are chosen meritoriously, are women and men of high integrity and will put national interests first.
Having the belaboured the national agenda, we want to reiterate the following points that we will not tire to repeat:
1. While development partners are willing to assist us covering the funding gaps by resuming provision of Budget Support; such budgetary support, when it comes will be meaningless to the poor if corruption persists.
2. While acknowledging that even with the disbursement and availability of donor funds it will take time and it needs our patience; for the ordinary man and woman in the village patience will be an elusive virtue if a select and connected few are looting the meagre resources with impunity.
To conclude, at Nyasa Times, we are confident that all the above are achievable with the political will, right policies, collaboration between and among all partners, and most importantly with the accommodation of critical reasoning and voices – which is something that people in power in Malawi often do not want to hear.
God bless Malawi.
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