Reviving the Malawi Economy: Additional proposals

I have been following the debate on Revising the Malawi Economy, a topic which was discussed at the recent conference of the Economists Association of Malawi (ECAMA). The Patron  of ECAMA,  Thom Mpinganjira, proposed strategies for reviving the Malawi economy and his proposals made me to think of making additional proposals that could also help to turn the Malawi economy in the right direction.

While tourism is indeed a viable sector for growing the Malawi economy, it faces a lot of structural issues and deserves to be considered a long-term solution for reviving the Malawi Economy and worthy to be pursued. The structural issues include, airports, airline, roads, hotels, human resource for managing the tourism industry/sector, establishment of tourism authority. All these are huge areas to be developed and could not be undertaken within a short-term but worthy visioning and begin developing.

On undertaking a strategic review of the Civil Service to restore people’s confidence in the sector, it may indeed be true that the sectors image has been battered through work attitudes and high vacancy rate but there are more critical issues that need to be addressed with regard to the Civil Service:

Mpinganjira: Made proposal at ECAMA meeting

Firstly, lack of auditing discipline. It would appear that over time auditing of government and parastatal bodies has not been effective because auditors and officers have tended to agree on rewarding themselves as a result of mistakes made and as such no one is held accountable for the mismanagement or misappropriation or misuse of government funds;

Secondly, the contract system for senior government officials which was, I believe, introduced in late 1990s or early 2000, led to poor work attitudes by civil servants because the majority that did not benefit from the high contract salaries did not see why they should be working at all when others were getting rich or benefitting substantially from their contract jobs;

Thirdly, the Malawi Governments needs to drastically reduce its current expenditures. Government expenditures on vehicles/transport have been very high particularly in the provision of self-driven government vehicles by politicians and senior civil servants. The tendency is that they use the government vehicles for personal and private activities and not government business for some if not most of the time. This is a huge cost to the Government in terms of repairs and cost of petrol including fast depreciation of the vehicles. Official cars could be provided to them at the time they are undertaking an official trip. Reduction in expenditure could unlock financial resources which could be useful in financing development and other projects in the country which could reduce dependency on development partners;

Fourthly,  nepotism seems to be increasing in government, one does not need an uncle to get a job, everyone should be able to apply for a job and if successful in an interview, one should get the job;

Fifthly, the lack of effectiveness of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, particularly when politicians and senior civil servants are practicing corruption is of great concern. It will be difficult to control corruption until such time that this body becomes effective by exposing and punishing those involved in the corruption;

Sixthly, Local government is crucial in the economic development of the country. The fact that Cities and Districts do not have elected representatives to contribute to the development of the economy at the City or District levels is unacceptable. The local government elections are long overdue. The role of districts and cities in the development of the economy should be seriously addressed. Waiting for 2014 tripartite elections appears rather late.

One area that is continuously marginalised in reviving the economy is the issue of security. A country which has good security will tend to be favoured by many investors. In Malawi, security is left to individual businesses and households at large. Theft and armed robbery is increasing targeting businesses and middle and high class. It is time government undertook measures to protect businesses and its own people to ensure their security. This way citizens and businesses will be comfortable in their efforts of developing the economy.

Generation of foreign currency is critical for the revival of the economy. Tourism can earn foreign currency for a country. Also exports of food and manufactured goods can have a positive effect in increasing foreign currency. Remittances of nationals in diaspora have also been known to increase foreign currency of a country. It is important to explore all possible ways of increasing or earning foreign currency. Agriculture has been one way of earning foreign currency-exports of cash crops such as Tea, Tobacco; Cotton, etc. have earned a sizeable amount of foreign currency for the country.

Finally, a healthy population is critical for the development of the economy. If people are not healthy there is no way they can contribute to the country’s development. Government hospital facilities are dilapidated and there is lack of medicines. It is important for government to ensure that hospitals are well equipped and have adequate medical supplies including good and well trained medical personnel.

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