HER EXCELLENCY DR. JOYCE BANDA, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI AT THE MALAWI NATIONAL CONSULTATIVE CONFERENCE ON “MALAWI AT 50 AND PROSPECTS FOR THE NEXT 50 YEARS” CROSS ROADS HOTEL, LILONGWE, ON TUESDAY, 5TH MARCH, 2014
Justice Richard Banda S.C., (Retired);
Rt. Hon. Khumbo Kachali, Vice President of the Republic of Malawi;
Hon. Ralph Jooma, MP, Minister of Economic Planning and Development;
Cabinet Ministers and Deputy Ministers here present;
Mrs. Hawa Ndilowe, Chief Secretary to Government;
Prof. Mathews Chikaonda, Chairman of the High Level Development Council;
And all Members of the Council here present;
Madame Luisa Dias Diogo, Former Prime Minister of Mozambique, Brenthurst
Foundation Board and member of PACE;
Mr. Alberto Trejos, Head of INCAE Business School in Costa Rica, Brenthurst
Foundation Advisory Board and Chairperson of PACE;
And all Members of PACE here present;
Leaders of various political parties;
Representatives of International Organizations and Development Partners;
Leaders of Religious Organizations;
Government officials here present;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am very delighted to preside over this important National Consultative Conference which has been organized by the High Level Development Council that my government set up in January this year. I am informed that the Conference is being convened under the theme: “Malawi: the Next 50 Years”.
The objective of the Conference is to reflect on national development over the past five decades and begin to strategize on the next 50 years. It is important, therefore, that as a nation we come together and discuss the development opportunities and challenges of our beautiful nation, and position ourselves to redeem the times.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
As we are all aware, Malawi will be celebrating a jubilee on 6th July this year, commemorating 50 years of independence. I believe this moment provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our past, draw lessons and inspiration on what the 50 years have offered us as a nation.
This moment further provides us yet another opportunity to think and reflect clearly about the nation we want to become in the next 50 years.
We are in this transition with a moment of hope and I thank God to have placed me as President of this great nation at such a time when we can face the future with reality. The two years I have been in power have taught us few lessons, that:
We can make difficult decisions even in the face of uncertainty as we did with devaluation of our currency 22 months ago. Our country was at the verge of total economic collapse but we have been able to recover from such catastrophe despite the challenges we are facing. Today, we can easily boast of more than two months’ import cover in our foreign reserves from under a week’s cover. Today, we can boast of a stable availability of foreign exchange.
We can mobilise ourselves to build our economy despite constraints in our environment. Today, we can boast that we have grown our economy from 1.8 per cent in 2012 to 4.5 per cent in 2013 despite numerous challenges we have faced. Our economy is diversifying and many critical challenges to the economy are receiving attention than never before.
Today, our industries are operating at more than 75 per cent production capacity from 30 per cent in 2012. Today, our electricity generation capacity is at 352 mega watts from 287 mega watts in 2012. Today, our people enjoy more freedoms and exercise more rights than they were in 2012. Today, our agricultural sector is diversifying. Today, our mining sector has been positioned to turn around the fortunes of our country in a unique manner. Yes, today, our infrastructure programmes in railway, airways and roads are taking unprecedented pace.
We can demonstrate political will in placing national interests above personal political careers as we have done in dealing with the looting of public funds in Government where previous administrations tried to cover up these malpractices. Today, we have an opportunity to face fraud, pilferage and corruption not only in Government but also in all sectors of our economy with a united stand. Today, we understand the nature and structure of curtails, as revealed by the investigations into the looting of public resources at Capital as involving civil servants, banks, private sector and politicians, working in a concerted effort to frustrate the development of our country. Today, we can feel the pain of corruption than never before because our governance systems are working.
Many researchers and development specialists have cited bottlenecks in our development efforts. These could have been in the Executive Branch in failing to implement development plans as agreed. These could have been in the Legislative in failing the oversight role to ensure that national plans are implemented as agreed. Indeed, these could have been in the Judiciary in failing the speedy conclusion of cases. These three pillars of State need to have a shared view of the development plans in order to realize a common destiny.
During the two years as President of this country, it has been clear to me that as a country we need social, cultural and economic transformation. Many commentators have argued that Malawi had a transition without a transformation. I agree. We need to transform our priorities in caring for the needy and the vulnerable among us.
We need transformation in our cultural outlook especially our perception and practice of politics. Indeed, we need a transformation in our economy by enhancing rural transformation including wealth and job creation, hunger reduction, improving living conditions in our villages and the role of the private sector.
In all these, I realize one major challenge facing our country’s development agenda. This is the missing link between the nation’s development plans and its implementation framework: the lack of momentum to drive the implementation in a balanced and focused manner whilst taking a long term view.
It is with this view that my Government decided to establish the High Level Development Council (HLDC) to provide leadership in reflecting on the past 50 years of the country’s independence and coordinate dialogue among Malawians and with the world at large in defining our destiny in the next 50 years.
It is my hope that the Council will help build the momentum to strengthen and mobilize national efforts and resources in support of development plans; promote national ownership of our development policies in all vital sectors of the economy; and ensure a balanced and focused implementation of our development plans.
As I said during the announcement of the Council, and in my State of the Nation Address to Parliament on 18th May 2012, I told the nation that, “Malawi has to identify development tablets that will guide our development agenda regardless of which government or political party is in power”.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
The Council comprises members from different sectors including the Academia, Youth Organizations, Private Sector, Faith-based Organizations, and Civil Society. This diversity in membership will ensure that government is provided with development advice from different perspectives for policy decision.
I am sure that the Council’s advice to all arms of government and other stakeholders on Malawi’s national development agenda will go a long way in shaping the direction our nation is taking.
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Since independence, Malawi has drawn good development plans which, if effectively implemented, would have significantly improved its development status beyond the current level.
It is worth noting that other countries have borrowed Malawi’s development plans and have succeeded in their development initiatives. This confirms the quality of the national plans that Malawi has developed over the years.
However, it is worrying to note that despite many good development plans and policies that Malawi has drawn and implemented, the aspirations of Malawians are far from being met as we approach the Golden Jubilee of our Independence.
Since independence, Malawi has implemented different strategies including the Development Policies (Devpols), Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategies Paper (MPRSP), Vision 2020, Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), and the current Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (MGDS II), and re-emphasized by the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).
We have had mixed experiences in the implementation and outcome of these development plans. Some have succeeded while others have failed.
For example, the per capita income stood at $381 in 2012 which is still far from the $1000 envisioned for the year 2020.
At this point in time, with only six years to go before Vision 2020 expires, the situation is not much different from the one just described. About 50.7% of Malawians are still poor with little or no access to basic needs such as food, medical care, education, housing, water and sanitation.
With the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) II expiring in 2016 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ending in 2015, it is timely for Malawi to reflect and think forward to achieve a better Malawi for all in the coming 50 years. This is not one man’s job but for all of us to determine our destiny.
Mr. Chairman, I feel it is time we revisited our way of doing things, examine how we have implemented our development strategies; where we have gone wrong and think through what we can do as a nation to go forward with much focus on the improvement of people’s lives.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
My dream still stands; I want to see a nation where children can go to school without any barriers and get employed after finishing school; I want to see a nation with enough medical supplies in our hospitals and that no mother dies when giving birth; I want to see a nation where people have decent housing; I want to see a nation where no one sleeps on an empty stomach; I want to see a nation where transport systems are developed and affordable for all Malawians. I know this is possible to attain if we all work together towards the same goal.
Being multi-sectoral and non-partisan, the Council is expected to provide advice to government and other stakeholders on hard policy and development questions so that our policy and programme implementation propel us to attain rapid and sustained socio economic development for the entire country in the medium- to long-term.
Mr. Chairman, we need a change of mindset in order to strengthen ownership and adherence to implementation of national development plans regardless of which government is in power so that we remain one nation with one vision.
This Government is ready to work with all stakeholders to ensure that our development is sustainable and benefits all Malawians.
President Joyce Banda's Five Questions
In closing, I want to leave you with five questions to consider which I asked during the National Dialogue on the Economy in Mangochi on 29th June 2012:
How can we envision Malawi, that is, making Malawi the best small country in the world to do business in? Malawi can be a world leader in a number of sectors including food export, green economy, entrepreneurship, innovation and culture.
How can we re-establish our economic reputation, that is, the role Malawian culture can play in opening doors in new markets and the need to consider strong support for initiating the Cultural Ambassador model with the appointment of sporting, business and food ambassadors.
How can we re-engage with the emerging markets, that is, highlighting the importance of a “structured mobilisation” of the diaspora which could be effective in areas such as mentoring, offering placements and internships, developing an investment vehicle through which the diaspora could provide seed funding for Malawian business; and in communicating positive messages.
How can we re-energise our country, that is, identifying the need for a programme for mentoring “winning managers‟.
Malawi should focus on increasing its exports not just for products and services, but also its systems and processes in areas where Malawi has particular expertise such as in agricultural products, Banking and Insurance.
How can we transform Malawi? This could be the foundation of the previous four pillars encompassing a range of reform initiatives the country can move into and “not a business-as-usual” attitude.
These are important questions and need important answers.
Let me underline and state here that this conference must not concentrate on theoretical solutions; but it must focus on practical and realistic home grown plans that are tailor-made for Malawi.
These solutions should be workable and have a long lasting and sustainable impact on Malawians.
I wish to thank our partners from Brenthurst Foundation who have assisted in partly financing this conference.
Lastly, let me thank you all for your coming and I would like to ask all of you to actively participate in the discussions and provide your ideas on various issues for the good of this nation.
I thank you all for your attention