News / Africa

Malawi Struggles at Half-Century Mark

Malawi President Peter Mutharika has pledged economic reforms. He’s shown after being sworn into office in Blantyre on May 31, 2014.
Malawi President Peter Mutharika has pledged economic reforms. He’s shown after being sworn into office in Blantyre on May 31, 2014.
Lameck Masina

Malawi will mark 50 year of independence on Sunday. To celebrate its July 6 golden jubilee, the southeast African country will spend about $370,000 for festivities in the capital city of Lilongwe. The gala at Civo Stadium will include a friendly football (soccer) match between Malawi and Mozambique and live music performances by local artists. 

But some people say they are in no mood for rejoicing. A half century on, many Malawians still live in poverty. The country itself continues begging for contributions, with 40 percent of its budget coming from international donors.

Although she could walk to the festivities from her home in Chinsapo Township, a densely populated area of Lilongwe, Stella Mwambakulu said she sees no reason to attend.

"I can't go there,” the widowed mother of three told VOA. “… Why should we celebrate while women are still dying in the hospitals because we can't access necessary medical care in the hospitals? Women still walk long distances to access potable water. Why should we celebrate when ordinary Malawians still survive on less than a dollar a day?"

Mwambakulu said that instead of spending on a celebration, the government should have budgeted for initiatives to improve the lives of ordinary Malawians.

More than 65 percent of the country’s residents live below the poverty level of less than $2 a day, according to the Center for Social Concern, an organization that conducts monthly cost-of-living surveys.   

Its executive director, Joseph Kuppens, said a surge in Malawi’s population – rising from 4 million in 1964 to 15 million today – is one reason for such high poverty levels. 

Corruption takes a toll

"Whatever the country is trying to do in order to alleviate and eradicate poverty will be problematic because of the increase in population,” he said.

But Kuppens contends there’s a second factor: “Resources that are supposed to go to the people are actually being used … by the selected few, and that is evident in the whole Cashgate saga."

The corruption scandal known as Cashgate erupted in 2013, when it was discovered that $30 million in government funds had been siphoned off by civil servants, business people and government officials. 

In response, international donors suspended critical funds, citing the need for accountability. There were arrests, promises of tackling corruption and a new election and government installed. 

Fahad Assan, Malawi’s former director of public prosecution, estimated the government loses 30 percent of its budget through fraud and corruption annually.

While corruption is cited as a major obstacle to tackling poverty, other structural issues are at play.

Agriculture policy criticized

Ben Kalua, an economics professor at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, said the country has experienced economic challenges throughout its history because it lacks thoughtful policies on agriculture, the country's major source of income. Agriculture accounts for 37 percent of Malawi's gross domestic product and 85 percent of its export revenue, and employs 80 percent of the labor force.  

Most of the agriculture involves small-scale farming.

“You will find that small-holder agriculture takes a big chunk of our budget,” Kalua said, “which has led us into this poverty situation which is still prevalent in Malawi."

Small farm operations keep the tax base small, he said, leaving the government unable to raise needed funds to improve infrastructure and grow the economy. 

Peter Mutharika, sworn in as president May 31, promised in his first state of the nation address to change Malawi's status as one of the least-developed countries. He pledged to curb corruption and to reform agriculture, emphasizing irrigation farming and infrastructure development. He also said he would grow the economy by 7 percent in the next five years.

If the president can fulfill those promises, many Malawians say, there will be reason to celebrate when the country turns 55.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
July 07, 2014 10:54 AM
I dnt thnk if what mr prsdnt said ,gna be fulfilled looking at his cabnet,de same pipo were embezleling de countryz wealth with his brother are included.de lomwe gvnmnt arlready failed ,only lmwez will benefit.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid