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Covid-19 recovery plan: Where are we with it?

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Saulos Chilima

By Deogratias Mmana

Almost a year after government launched the Covid-19 Social and Economic Recovery Plan, some stakeholders which were supposed to be involved in its implementation remain in the dark.

Vice President Saulos Chilima launched the plan on September 10, 2021. The plan was aimed at enhancing the capacity of people to effectively recover and build back better from the adverse impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

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According to Chilima, the plan targeted the implementation of strategic interventions across inter-linked focus areas which include building resilient and sustainable health, education, social protection, economy and labour market and building an enabling macroeconomic policy environment.

Chilima said the government would take the plan to the private sector, developing partners, the academia, the civil society and the media to partner the government during its implementation.

But one year down the lane, some stakeholders have disowned the plan, arguing that the government did not engage them to help in the implementation of the plan.

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On the media part, both the Media Council of Malawi (MCM) and Malawi Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi said the government did not engage them for the implementation of the plan.

“We were not approached and I am not aware of any coordinated role that we are playing,” Misa Malawi chairperson Tereza Ndanga said.

And MCM Chief Executive Officer Moses Kaufa said: “They did not engage us on that.”

Universities that we spoke to expressed ignorance about their involvement or engagement in the plan.

Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) spokesperson James Mphande said he was not aware of his college’s engagement in the implementation of the recovery plan.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence said his coalition has not yet been reached.

“As HRDC, we are yet to be reached but we are hopeful that at an opportune time, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, which is in charge of the initiative, will engage the CSOs for their input.

“We would want to see the recovery plan not just to be on paper but rather something that can be operationalized and change the lives of Malawians. We want to see whether the recovery plan is being implemented whether it is effective in changing the lives of Malawians. We also want the government to be updating Malawians quarterly on the progress of the recovery plan in terms of its implementation,” Trapence said.

However, Council for Non-Governmental Organisations (Congoma) said three meetings were held involving National Planning Commission, United Nations Development Programme and Congoma itself to plan and strategise on how to CSOs could contribute.

“It was decided to approach some big spending NGOs to make budget realignments and cover some themes in the plan. Some did the alignments and their impact is yet to be assessed including the whole plan,” Congoma chairperson Kossam Munthali said.

Dean of the diplomatic community who is also Norwegian ambassador to Malawi Steinar Hagen did not respond to our questionnaire on whether the development partners were engaged.

Asked to explain how the plan has been executed and its impact, Principal Secretary for Economic Planning and Development Winford Masanjala said he was on an assignment up north and he could only address the questions upon return today.

Later he said NPC Director General Thomas Munthali would contact us with the response but he did not even after being reminded.

Executive Director for Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) Willie Kambwandira said the silence on the progress of the plan may be testimony that the plan was conceived as a political stunt.

“The silence tells us that the roadmap was just another mere political rhetoric that was coined to score political mileage. What is evident is that the economy continues to bleed from structural wounds including Covid-19, and the austerity measures remain another lip service,” Kambwandira said.

He added: “Unfortunately, there are no indicators to evaluate the plan and we have not been told how much has been spent on the plan. But it is clear that there is nothing like an economic recovery plan. That blueprint was deserted the day it was announced.”

Kambwandira called on President Lazarus Chakwera and his vice to update Malawians on the progress of the plan amid the souring of the cost of living.

“It is sad that the implementation of the ERP lacked transparency and inclusiveness,” Kambwandira said.

During the launch of the recovery plan, Chilima said the plan “which must be supported by everyone is calculated strategy to avert the risks which Covid-19 pose in the attainment of Malawi’s national development aspirations.”

Chilima added: “It is ideal and proper-and that is the plea from government-that through these partnerships we indeed need to work together and forge together. No one should be a spectator. We must be allies in this recovery plan.”

He further said: “As a government, we have always demonstrated, we are ready and we will extend our hand to any stakeholder group that is willing to unclench your fist for a collaborative handshake.”

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