Today, millions of Malawians remain trapped in poverty; but had the aspirations of Malawians outlined in Vision 2020 in March 1998 become reality, by January 1 2021, the country would have been singing a different song.
But a new baby Malawi2063 (MW2063) is in the block. MW2063—which has staggered 10-year targets—aspires the country to have an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant nation by 2063.
But as the country awaits fruits of the MW2063, an analysis from Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) projects show that the incidence of absolute poverty in the country will not be eradicated by 2050, with development and economic experts saying the projections are not strange.
In the paper, Modelling trade and income distribution in six developing countries: A dynamic general equilibrium analysis up to the year 2050, FAO states that high dependency on imports and population growth would not help matters.
It pits the incidence of absolute poverty at 70.8 percent, and while it says that status would be eradicated in all other countries examined—Albania, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Viet Nam—that status will remain for Malawi.
It reads: “We now turn to analyse the findings in terms of absolute poverty, which in the FAO household surveys is defined as a daily average expenditure below the threshold level of USD 1.9, in the reference initial year.
“Incidence of absolute poverty is especially relevant in the two African countries (Ethiopia 82.5 percent, Malawi 70.8 percent), but also in Viet Nam (54.1 percent).
“The key insight is that absolute poverty would be eradicated in all countries, with the exception of Malawi. The main reason behind the persistence of poverty in this country is the high population growth.”
FAO sees growth in real income per capita, over the whole 2011–2050 period at 480 percent for Ethiopia and 378 percent for Malawi, however, while the two countries are running fast, they only marginally catch up due to initial handicap.
“Over time, Malawi becomes more dependent on imports of grains and crops from the rest of the world.
“More trade does not add very much to the picture, worsening inequality in Malawi, but improving it somewhat in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ethiopia,” it adds.
Catholic University of Malawi (Cunima) economics head Hopkins Kawaye said corruption, inefficient policies, heavy borrowing for consumption and inefficiencies on production continues to perpetuate poverty in the country.
On production, he wondered why government seems unwilling to continue with the idea of mega farms, saying this will result into the country importing more food products and crops, which will be expensive for many people and perpetuate poverty.
“You have a budget with deficits, then you borrow just for consumption instead of borrowing to boost production. Again, some of the money borrowed ends up in the pockets of a few corrupt individuals, while the majority continues in poverty.
“Then you have inefficient policies like subsidies. We pump in a lot of money each year, yet every year we have food deficits and have to look for more money. Can’t we change? Let us invest money where it is going to provide us results,” he said.
Kawaye warned that failure by government to adopt policies that enhance production will worsen the trade balance, resulting to higher prices on the market, devaluation of the kwacha, all which will worsen the poverty status of Malawians.
A development expert, Chandiwira Chisi said Malawi’s problems are compounded in governance, especially corruption, lack of industrialisation, overdependency on same cash crops like tobacco, but also failure to accept that it is time for economic revolution.
He said: “We have problems with functionality of state institutions that are supposed to deliver our dreams. There is also lack of industrialisation because previously, Malawi was able to produce. That time, there was no heavy need for imports.
“But we have killed the capacity to produce and are heavily depending on imports. That has killed source of employment, revue for government, but also people cannot have available markets for their primary products where value addition can be done.”
Without industrialisation, Chisi said the country has been opened up to be a dumping site for finished products from elsewhere, the little money made is spent on import, leaving a majority of Malawians who are farmers poor.
He added: “This is not a journey of faith; you have to do the right things. We have done a lot of talking; we can’t get anywhere if we continue doing things the same way. Let us commit ourselves, and go for an economic revolution
But Associate professor of agricultural economics at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar). Kennedy Machira said the growing population can be used to the country’s advantage if well thought through.
“The mega farm concept can produce enough food to feed the country, and if we can seriously invest and practically implement the greenbelt initiative, it has the propensity of creating much food even for exports.
“Population cannot be a problem if it is able to engage in activities that can produce more, and then use to feed the same population. Look at how China has revolutionalised itself because the government had policies to use the same huge population for better and we can do the same here,” argued Machira.
Speaking during the official handover ceremony of Malamya police mobile service camp houses in Mangochi, President Lazarus Chakwera stressed the need to revamp the industralisation drive.
“Malawi once had a strong foundation for industrialization, building manufacturing plants that add value to the things we produce so that we become a nation that knows how to make things. But instead of building on this foundation, we spent the next twenty-six years allowing that foundation to be destroyed.
“That is why ever since you chose me to serve you as your President, I have insisted on rebuilding a strong foundation of industrialization, because the only way to build a strong economy is for us to make things of economic value,” he said.
Last year November, Chakwera launched MW2063 first 10-year implementation plan with a call to every Malawian to “get busy” and waste no time to take the country forward.
The plan, estimated to cost $15 billion (about K12 trillion), outlines priority strategies and interventions to be implemented in the next 10 years to set Malawi on a path to actualise MW2063, the country’s long-term development strategy.
The 210-page document also targets a per capita income of $1 000 (about K825 000) by 2030. Currently, Malawi’s per-capita income, which is derived by dividing national income by population, is ranked one of the lowest in the world at around $600. n