Oxfam Malawi has tipped government that there is need for a clear National Inequality Reduction Plan after observing that the gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening.
This is containing in a report titled Closing the Divide in Malawi which propose solutions to reducing inequality in the country.
Inequality has been described as the country’s major development challenge with poverty remaining extreme as the gap between the richest and the rest continues to rise.
An analysis conducted by Oxfam in the country whose report was launched on Wednesday in Lilongwe says if left unchecked the situation can lead to 1.5 million more Malawians being poor by 2020.
“Clear targets need to be set to reverse the increase in inequality levels and close the gap between the richest and the rest of Malawians ,” the report says.
It said this should be complemented by a robust data collection system to support policy development, target setting and monitoring progress.
As at March 2018, an average family of six in the urban areas requires at least K186 648 to survive in a month, against the minimum wage at around K25 000, published figures from the Centre for Social Concern (CFSC) have shown.
This means already, a worker earning K25 000 will have to deal with a deficit of about K161 000 if he or she is to afford a descent life.
The Oxfam report, ‘Closing the Divide in Malawi: How to Reduce Inequality and Increase Prosperity for All’ presents a vision, roadmap and policy recommendations for a more inclusive, equitable and prosperous Malawi.
The Oxfam Malawi report has said solutions to addressing inequality in health, education and income can only be attained if legislation to check corruption and external influence on the government is fully implemented
The report has recommended solutions to addressing key issues, especially political capture and corruption.
It shows that to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) government must commit to policies which prevent the country’s elites from appropriating benefits of economic growth and instead ensure that benefits are distributed to all.
The report shows that inequality is not inevitable but the result of policy choices made by those in power and as such there is need for collaborative efforts by government, development partners and institutions to work for all especially for those who are vulnerable rather than serving powerful vested interests.
Oxfam Malawi, according to the report, said public interest and tackling inequalities and poverty in Malawi should be guiding principles of all national policies and strategies, and donor support.
“Malawians are demanding accountability, they must be equipped to hold government and other powerful actors to account,” reads the report in part.
To tackle inequality as a result of political capture and corruption, the report has commended the passing of the Political Parties Act as one way of regulating party funding.
“But this will not lead to substantive change unless the Act’s provisions, including those around transparency of political party finances and regulation of State contributions are fully implemented and the new Political Party Registrar is fully funded and its independence assured,” the report reads.
The report also called for the enforcement of the ban on handouts during elections and sanctions where the provisions are breached.
Oxfam also indicates that political capture and corruption can be reduced with the tabling of the revised Corrupt Practices Act and strengthening independence of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and National Audit Office (NAO) by the government not interfering in the hiring and firing of the heads of these institutions
“The government should fully implement Access to Information Act and ensure civil society and media genuinely have the access tools to facilitate public scrutiny and the Assets Declaration law which can assist in promoting transparency and accountability of those in political office,” the report recommends.
Oxfam Malawi has also appealed to development partners to restore budgetary support and ensure interventions in healthcare and education are well funded, but said donors can only come in if the Malawi Government takes steps to tackle corruption and other forms of Cashgate—the plunder of public resources—which have happened since 2013
“Donors must also reflect on their own responsibilities in the fight against corruption, including ensuring development assistance adheres to aid effectiveness principles,” the report said.
Launching the report on Wednesday in Lilongwe , Oxfam International regional director for Southern Africa Nellie Nyang’wa said: “Restoring budget support is the most urgently needed action donors should take to enhance aid quality and ensure critical government interventions like healthcare and education can be funded. Of course, this brings us back to zero-tolerance of corruption, a critical enabler of this step.”
Reacting to the report, chief director of Economic Planning and Development, Peter Simbani, said some of the recommendations by Oxfam would not be taken on board as they needed further discussions, but government still needed budgetary support.
“Most donors moved away from providing budgetary support due to corruption but other governments stopped because of new policies of providing aid off budget. We are discussing with some donors to move away from off budget financing because it goes against the principles of the Paris Declaration,” he said.
Simbani said government is committed to fighting inequality of all forms through government’s blueprint of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MDGS III).
He said the MDGS III has domesticated 17 SDGs which are vital in the development agenda.
Simbani hoped that through the MDGS III the country would be able to achieve equitable and prosperous.
He observed that much as he appreciates the observations and recommendations of the report, there is need to incorporate issues of population growth which he said is also affecting development process.
“We need to address issues of population growth if we are to achieve what we preach. Population growth management is very important in the development agenda,” the Chief Director said.
He said the fight against inequality is not government’s fight alone but for all. He, therefore, called upon all stakeholders to work together in this fight.
Oxfam in Malawi Interim Country Director, Lingalireni Mihowa said the country has a huge task in addressing the drivers of inequality now than later in order to achieve the much desired development.
She said no economic growth would be inclusive if the country does not tackle inequality first saying the widening gap between the rich and the poor is throwing a lot of Malawians into extreme poverty.
“Rising inequality is dangerous because it concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a few individuals leaving a majority of ordinary citizens voiceless and their needs uncared for,” Mihowa pointed out.
The Interim Country Director said like elsewhere inequality in Malawi is not inevitable saying there are steps the country can take to close the gap between the rich and the poor thereby building a country for the majority not simply the supper rich at the top.
Oxfam is an international body of several organisations networking in more than 90 countries as part of a global movement for change.
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