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Tight lid on Malawi

Published: 01-FEB-04

The British government is considering a resumption of budget support to the MALAWI government on condition that it accounts properly for any development assistance it receives. Tione Andsen investigates.

"My government expects the government of Malawi to demonstrate that the British aid money it receives - every penny or kwacha of it - is spent on services or goods that benefit the poor," the British high commissioner to Malawi, Norman Ling stated during the national launch of the 2003 Targeted Inputs Programme (TIP). The programme is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Malawi government.

Ling said his government wants to make available 15 million a year for budget support depending on the government of Malawi managing its finances well and demonstrating its firm commitment to expenditure in line with the Malawi poverty reduction strategy. He also added that the support is aimed at helping the people of Malawi tackle the enormous problems they are facing after the development partners and friendly governments had stopped providing budget support for the past two years.

Conditions

The high commissioner pointed out that once the budget support resumes there should be firm accountability, adding this could best be achieved through partnership between the two governments.

"Such a partnership requires each side to live up to its responsibilities in the case of my government, that means providing the promised funds on time and on clear terms and conditions," Ling explained.

He said he government of Malawi need to increase spending on the poor, in accordance with the priorities laid out in the poverty reduction strategy paper, promote growth through land reform and support the private sector.

Ling added that the government of Malawi should also spend no more than it receives from taxes and pay off some of its accumulated debt and create the conditions for free and fair elections for May 2004.

"This is the basis on which my government and other donors will continues providing aid to this country. They are not arbitrary conditions, but rather foundations for a still more democratic Malawi that can begin to tackle the poverty that is the root cause of most of the country's problems," he said.

DFID is assisting the government of Malawi to provide fertilisers and seeds to small farmers as one way of ensuring food security at household and national levels.

Government wants to make available 15 million a year for budget support depending on the government of Malawi managing its finances well and demonstrating its firm commitment to expenditure in line with the Malawi poverty reduction strategy.

The DFID livelihoods advisor, Dr Harry Potter said his department has allocated 45 million for the next three years to improve rural livelihoods and agricultural development in the country. He said programmes in health, education, safety, security and access to justice will continue receiving support. "Over the past five years nearly 11 million packs of seeds and fertilisers have been supplied to small farmers to assist in food production," Dr Potter explained adding this growing season, 1.7 million families will benefit, following 400,000 who received packs for their dimba gardens this winter."

He also said DFID and other development partners worked with the government to develop a national safety net strategy, to provide a comprehensive programme of support for the poorer citizens. Potter added that the country must avoid a repeat of the food crisis of 2001-2002. "The British government is working with government of Malawi, other development partners and non governmental organisations (NGOs) to develop a national food security strategy."

There is a general agreement that a national food reserve system will be required and its operations need to be governed by rules that provide for full accountability and transparency in decision making and operations.

Local situation

Malawi's deputy minister of agriculture, irrigation and food security, Henry Mussa admitted that that the are some issues which need to be taken in consideration.

The deputy minister said the hunger crisis that hit the country in 2001- 2002 season had huge cost implications to both the government and its partners.

He explained that government had to import 250,000 tons of maize at an average price of about US$260 a ton.

This prompted government to expand the Targeted Inputs Programme last season as one way of increasing production this year. "Our maize production last season was 1.9 million tons and out of this production, the TIP programme last season contributed about 350,000 tons at an estimated production cost of about US$38 a ton. This is about seven times the price the government paid to import maize during the previous season.

DFID has made available US$10.8 million for the implementation of this year's TIP programme.



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