Written by A MARAPOST SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
BLANTYRE--Brits, one of Malawi’s big time bilateral donors, are talking tough on free spending Malawi, saying: "The government needs to tighten its belt."
That's the message new High Commissioner Michael Nevin said when interviewed by the Daily Times.
Britain is Malawi's former colonial power which recently formally re-established full diplomatic relations when Nevin presented his credentials to Pres Joyce Banda after previous envoy Fergus Cochrane-Dyet was kicked out of the country when a leaked cable showed he’d accused the late president Bingu wa Mutharika of "becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism."
Malawi gained its independence from Britain in 1964 and London remains the biggest bilateral donor to the nation, where half the 14 million citizens live below the poverty line and on less than a dollar a day.
International worries about Mutharika's governance led donors, including Britain, to cut off aid. He died in office in April.
Malawi depends on donor support for up to 40 percent of its development budget and salaries for 169,000 civil servants.
However, Nevin said as part of Malawi's recovery economic plan, the country needed to "cut on unnecessary expenditures. The government needs to tighten its belt to put the priority of resources for economic growth to help the most vulnerable in Malawi."
He told the Daily Times that Lilongwe needed to be prudent with public resources.
Banda, recently accused by her critics of excessive local and foreign travelling and a large cabinet, inherited a battered economy with chronic fuel and foreign exchange shortages and her administration has put in place a recovery plan which is banking on donors to pull the country out of this mess.
Malawians have been impatient with the Banda regime, but Nevin warned that it was "going to take time to recover and the challenge it to keep on the momentum...that's why we are focusing on the recovery plan."
Britain has pumped in some £58 million--about K29 billion - to support the country's budget in health, education and food.
He added: "We have responded very quickly. All our commitments are on track."
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