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Donors not head teachers—Woeste

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German Ambassador to Malawi Peter Woeste failed to mince words and has bluntly told Malawians to stop the culture of seeking solutions from donors.

“It is now five years that I have been serving in Malawi but I sometimes get annoyed when donors are asked like headmasters about what they think, say after Parliament presentation,” Peter Woeste, said.

Woeste said it is not the development partners’ role to judge but to partner government in formulating policies that would spur the country’s sustainable development.

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He was speaking on the sidelines of a Second High Level Forum for Development Effectiveness held in Lilongwe on Wednesday.

However, in the opening statement on behalf of development partners at the forum, the diplomat took time to give a picture of the country’s economic, political and social challenges and suggested ways that can help Malawi getting out of the pitiable state.

“It has been five years with an ever increasing number of people in need. Of people who remain locked in a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty. Poverty means parents can’t feed their families enough nutritious food, leaving children malnourished,” he said.

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He said malnutrition leads to irreversibly stunted development and shorter, less productive lives which mean no escape from poverty.

He called it humanitarian disaster and not sustainable that about half of the country’s population will be affected by acute food insecurity this year, urging participants to the forum to discuss policies that would prevent such humanitarian disasters from happening again in the future.

Woeste said with an increase of worldwide competition for development funds, development partners are analysing and evaluating their policies.

“We are asking ourselves: Why didn’t the billions of euro, dollars and pounds in more than 50 years bring the results we and all Malawians have been striving for.

“It is only natural that the support will go to those countries where the best development results, the biggest improvements can be achieved,” he said.

On policy issues, the German envoy said investors need to have access to land and the country needs to procure maize in a timely manner.

“But if the newspaper reports from the Admarc depots are correct, we again are missing the chance to purchase when prices are low and we are failing to ensure that smallholder farmers get a fair price of their produce,” he said.

He said curbing corruption and mismanagement is the most effective income-generating activity the country can do.

“’Well-wishers’, my British colleague recently said in an article, ‘sometimes can be a misnomer for shady cartels and self-enrichment’. ‘State security’ is sometimes also used to cover dubious deals.

“Today we know that there hasn’t been just one Cashgate, but many. There is room to look more intensively into those other Cashgates. In this respect, we find it important to finally guarantee the full independence of the National Audit Office,” he said.

He added that development partners are concerned that those responsible for the murder of Issa Njauju have still not been brought to justice.

He said the civil service desperately needs “sorting out of the bad, the rotten apples”, adding lowering the bar for firing officials violating the rules would help.

“I am not an expert on the Malawian law. But I know what is just what is justice. And the Judiciary is not living in an ivory tower. I am not sure whether the majority of Malawians could laugh about the judge who asked recently for prayers for a bigger a car,” the diplomat said.

Woeste also asked parliament to play its role as well.

“I hear that bills are taking their endless cycles in yet another committee. I hear that memos are going back and forth between the ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau] and the Speaker for example. I would like to hear more about adoption of decisions and less about allowances. And some of these allowances, take fuel allowance, are totally bizarre,” he said.

The ambassador urged government to continue its civil service reforms, saying: “To avoid accusations of political interference, strengthening the independence of the Auditor General and his office as it is standard practice the world round could be ideas to consider.

“Same applies to the DPP and the Anti-Corruption Bureau. … Transparent tendering of all government contracts, including of security equipment, could stop insider trading and conflicts of interest.”

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, said the forum was convened to gather people concerned with development issues so that they can provide strategic guidance, advice and technical support to the government on sustainable economic growth.

The forum met under the theme “Working Together for Sustainable Development in Malawi”.

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