UK MPs urge budget support for Malawi over JB’s reform agenda

British government has been persuaded to reinstate its  general budget support for Malawi following brave reforms ” for the better carried by new President Joyce Banda, according to MPs on the International Development Committee.

In a report released on Tuesday and seen by Nyasa Times from the House of Commons website, the committee’s chairman, Sir Malcolm Bruce, recommended that London starts giving Malawi general budget support through Department for International Development (DFID).

The committee has been encouraged by President Banda’s resolve to change bad policies of late president Bingu wa Mutharika which led to the budget support being suspended in July 2011.

Banda fixing Mutharika mess

“Malawi has seen dramatic changes over recent months,” said Bruce, Liberal Democrat MP for Gordon, in North East Scotland, since 1983 and is the party’s Scottish President.

Bruce: The policies President Joyce Banda is currently pursuing deserve UK support.

 “When we visited the country in March, the political climate was very unstable, and the economy had almost entirely ceased to function. President Banda began to fix these problems immediately upon coming to office,” the report quoted Bruce as saying.

The chairman said the policies President Banda is pursuing “deserve UK support.”

The committee informed that President Banda has begun to reverse many of late Mutharika’s policies including allowing the Kwacha currency to be liberalised.

“If this progress is maintained, general budget support will be the most efficient option, both for the Malawian people and for the UK taxpayer,” Bruce said.

The committee has urged DfID to consider its position on Malawi as soon as possible.

Cash support and fertiliser subsidy

The MPs also made a strong case in support of Malawi’s cash transfers – small cash payments provided directly to the poorest.

In Malawi, DFID does not currently deliver any of its aid in this way but supports cash transfers for several countries including neighbouring Zambia. The MPs argue that DFID should re-consider, since its refusal to fund cash transfers in Malawi is inconsistent with its policy elsewhere.

“Its lack of support for cash transfers in Malawi – particularly given the levels of poverty which exist there – is difficult to understand. We recommend that DfID join Unicef [the UN agency for children], Germany and the EU in supporting cash transfers for Malawi,” said the report.

In addition, MPs urged DfID to continue its support for Malawi’s farm input subsidy programme, which provides seeds and fertiliser to smallholder farmers at subsidised prices, saying it is fundamental to the achievement of food security in Malawi.

The MPs urge DFID to continue with this support, since cutting it would have serious consequences for the people of Malawi.

“Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world, so achieving food security is obviously challenging,” said Bruce.

“The farm input subsidy programme was actually set up during President Mutharika’s time. Despite his many failings in office, he deserves some credit for this. DfID’s support to the programme has been of great value to poor people in Malawi, and it is important that this support continues,” the report noted.

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