08:33 am - Thursday 20 September 2018

MPs urge rethink over UK aid to Malawi

By Amalawi - Tue Jul 24, 12:02 pm

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The UK government has been urged to rethink how it gives aid to Malawi after the change of leadership in the African country earlier this year.

The UK suspended direct funding in 2011 amid concerns about mismanagement and human rights violations, while still giving support through other channels.

A group of MPs said there had been “dramatic changes” for the better since President Joyce Banda came to power.

Education in Malawi

Education in Malawi

But ministers say they want political and economic progress to be maintained.

The UK gives more than £90m every year to Malawi – one of the poorest countries in Africa – which is focused on supplying drugs, improving sanitation and supporting crop development.

But direct funds to the Malawi exchequer for poverty reduction – known as general budget support – were stopped in 2011 amid concerns about economic mismanagement and the suppression of opposition groups by the then President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Funding, instead, was directed through non-governmental organisations and other bodies working in the country and not reduced in size.

But following President Mutharika’s death in April, relations with the UK have improved and international development secretary Andrew Mitchell recently visited the country.

The UK was among countries to provide urgent assistance after Malawi devalued its currency by a third in May – a move the international community said was necessary to address short-term shortages of fuel and to make its economy more competitive in the long term.

President Banda also introduced a floating exchange rate regime and lifted controls on currency trading, moves also seen as designed to appease foreign donors.

The Commons international development committee said the UK should revert to providing direct support as soon as possible if economic and political changes were not reversed.

“Malawi has seen dramatic changes over recent months,” said Malcolm Bruce, the Lib Dem MP who chairs the cross-party body.

“When we visited the country in March, the political climate was very unstable and the economy had almost entirely ceased to function. President Banda began to fix these problems immediately upon coming to office and the policies she is currently pursuing deserve UK support.

“If this progress is maintained, general budget support will be the most efficient option – both for the Malawian people and the UK taxpayer.”

In response, Mr Mitchell acknowledged the government of Malawi was making “good progress” but said “the nature of future British support for Malawi – including general budget support – depends on political and economic progress being maintained”.

He added: “Britain’s support for Malawi has helped protect the poorest people following the devaluation of the kwacha as well as ensuring more than 100,000 babies will be born with the help of skilled medical professionals and more than a quarter of a million more girls attend primary school.”

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