06:59 pm - Tuesday 13 November 2018

UK non commital on aid to Malawi

By Amalawi - Thu Jun 14, 12:52 pm

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The UK development secretary backs Malawi president Joyce Banda but stops short of full restoration of bilateral aid
Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, has praised Joyce Banda, Malawi’s new president, for her “brave reforms”, but stopped short of announcing a firm date for when Britain will resume its general aid programme.

Mitchell, who visited heavily aid dependent Malawi last month, said on Wednesday that Banda had grasped the nettle and devalued the Kwacha by 50% on advice from the IMF. Although necessary, the move put strains on Malawians, he said, and Britain had responded by bringing forward £33m in aid to provide medicines, seeds and fertiliser.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell

In an appearance before MPs of the international development committee, Mitchell also praised Banda – who came to power in April after the death of Bingu wa Mutharika, her autocratic predecessor – for ditching “bad laws”, improving human rights, and getting rid of the presidential jet and other “fripperies”.

Despite high praise for Banda, however, Mitchell said he was not in a position to say when Britain would resume budget support as opposed to aid aimed at specific sectors such as health and education. “I can’t tell you when … my hope is before the end of the year,” said Mitchell, adding that he had to ensure British taxpayers would get good value for their aid money.

Asked by MPs whether Britain was looking at social protection measures such as cash transfers, Mitchell said he was a strong supporter of social protection as a way of stimulating markets and of protecting the poor against food insecurity.

“Cash transfers are certainly on the table,” said Mitchell, who visited Malawi with Diana Noble, the new head of Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), the UK’s development finance arm.

Asked by one MP, Richard Harrington, about investment opportunities in Malawi – in mangoes for example – as opposed to aid, Mitchell said DfID and the CDC plan to work much more closely in the future. The development secretary said he was keen to see more private investment in Malawi. The problem, however, was to find “reliable local interlocutors”.

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