The Development Situation in Malawi - International Development Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

DFID Malawi during the Mutharika era

1.  We believe the UK was right to delay the re-appointment of a High Commissioner while the relationship with Malawi remained strained. We feel strongly that any re-appointment at that stage could have been misconstrued. (Paragraph 11)

2.  DFID was right to suspend General Budget Support in July 2011. Given the political and economic crises in Malawi at that time, general budget support was not a sensible option. By stopping general budget support yet maintaining overall aid levels, DFID was able both to send a signal of its disapproval to the Malawian Government, and—simultaneously—to continue supporting poor people in Malawi. (Paragraph 15)

The future: mechanisms for providing aid

3.  Following the death of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, the achievement of a peaceful and constitutional transition of power is a tribute to the people of Malawi. President Banda's early weeks in office have been extremely promising, and she has taken hugely significant steps to reverse the damaging policies of her predecessor. We note that some recent developments—since President Banda assumed office—have themselves been unconstitutional: it is important that the Government of Malawi continues to operate within the broad framework of the constitution. (Paragraph 19)

4.  We welcome DFID's swift disbursement of funds for Malawi's health sector. Clearly the change of Government in Malawi enabled the UK to respond more quickly than it would otherwise have done. (Paragraph 23)

5.  Subject to the continuing progress of economic reforms in Malawi, we urge DFID to reinstate general budget support. In view of President Banda's commitment to reform, general budget support is likely to be the most effective way of providing support to Malawi. It is important to avoid continuing uncertainty, especially given that other donors are likely to follow DFID's lead. DFID currently expects to make a decision by the end of 2012, but we would urge it to make its decision as soon as possible. (Paragraph 27)

6.  We welcome DFID's willingness to assist with the strengthening of democratic institutions in Malawi. If general budget support is reinstated, DFID's work to strengthen democratic institutions may help to minimise the risk of it being suspended again. (Paragraph 29)

The future: choice of sectors

7.  Cash transfer programmes can make an important contribution to poverty reduction. Given its enthusiastic support for such programmes in other countries such as Zambia, DFID clearly recognises this. Its current 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, Germany and the EU in supporting cash transfers in Malawi. (Paragraph 34)

8.  The Malawian Government's Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP)—which DFID has supported—has been a great success. The programme provided subsidised seed and fertiliser to 1.4 million beneficiaries in 2011-12, and the Committee saw for itself the benefits of this support. (Paragraph 40)

9.  Given the present concern about the non-involvement of local retailers in distributing FISP fertiliser, we urge DFID to support the Malawian Government in its attempts to resolve this. Local retailers are already involved in the distribution of FISP seeds, and indeed were involved with FISP fertiliser as recently as 2009. Bringing local retailers on board can only be a good thing, particularly in view of DFID's commitment to developing the private sector. (Paragraph 41)

10.  We welcome DFID's intention to support private sector development in Malawi. In support of this, we recommend that DFID assist the Government of Malawi to identify 'strategic partners'—organisations that would be willing to work in partnership with the Malawian private sector. DFID should also consider what other ways it can support wealth creation in Malawi, such as by supporting power generation or providing technical assistance. CDC should also be encouraged to invest in Malawi. (Paragraph 47)

11.  We are concerned about the shortage of adequately-qualified health professionals in Malawi. We welcome the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State's enthusiasm for encouraging UK-based medical professionals to undertake secondments in developing countries, as this may be of significant benefit to Malawi. (Paragraph 49)

12.  Empowering women to choose how many children to have, and allowing them to space births as they choose, will be critical to Malawi's long-term development. We commend DFID for its longstanding commitment to addressing these challenges. In view of evidence which suggests injectable contraceptives are particularly popular with Malawian women, we urge DFID to focus more on this particular method. (Paragraph 52)

13.  Poor levels of education constitute a major constraint on Malawi's development. In particular, public university places in Malawi are extremely limited. The private university sector represents an alternative, and we welcome the new Malawian Government's intention to support the private university sector by means of public-private partnerships. However, tuition fees are often prohibitively high, putting a university education beyond the reach of most Malawians. We therefore urge DFID to consider funding scholarships. (Paragraph 56)

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Prepared 24 July 2012