Like Vision 2020, Malawi 2063 document is well written. The three pillars of development denoted as the ‘transformation we need’ and linking them to enablers (i.e. steps to propel the development agenda) are clearly delineated. The Vision also has elaborated outcomes and verifiable indicators which responsible institutions will review every five years to ensure the Vision is on course.
Those who have followed politics or development planning for the past four decades will tell you that Malawi has never been short of documents or policies. The problem has been implementation which fortunately, President Lazarus Chakwera is aware and acknowledged in many of his speeches.
Malawian politicians and political parties have their own political agenda when they via for political office. Through their manifestos, they promise good life for citizens and development for everyone. But once in office, they purse their own agenda.
Yes, the National Planning Commission (NPC) is empowered under the law ‘to coordinate the development of long and medium term national development plans ……and to oversee the implementation of those plans and coordinate the efforts of different stakeholders in achieving common objectives defined in the overall national development agenda.’
Unfortunately, the role of NPCs is confined to coordinating projects. This means that the NPC does not have real power to decide or control to implement projects. It is common knowledge that those with political power ultimately have also economic power which they use as they want. We have seen how leaders over the decades have channelled development projects to their regions and districts while promising development to be spread across the country.
For example, the late Bingu Wa Mutharika decided to build a university in his village when the ideal decision should have been to construct a university in the northern region where there is none. We have also seen how leaders have diverted resources from planned projects to their own preferred projects. This is the biggest problem with the unitary system of government.
Although party manifestos and all the medium-term plans can be aligned to Vision 63, the challenge remains whether the political party in power will follow spirit of Vision 63, given the fact that the party in power has the ultimate power to decide who get what, where and when. Power is centralised in the hands of a few people who tenaciously control government resources and decide how resources should be utilised. This is the biggest weakness of the unitary system.
While state and non-state actors have a role to play in the success of the Vision, strong political will is required to implement the vision. Ours is a sad story of leaders who have failed Malawians because they implement parochial interests at the expense of the whole society.
Unless the country is governed by selfless, servant and visionary leaders, the vision will end up like Vision 2020, very little progress on the ground. It should also be realised that the pillars and the enablers of the Vision can be achieved within a short time. A foundation to achieve the pillars and their enablers are already in place. They only need to be enhanced!
Work has to start in earnest!