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Economists see mixed outlook

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Lauryn Nyasulu

Economic commentators have welcomed news that the economy may be fully re-opened if decrease coronavirus cases.

President Lazarus Chakwera said on Sunday evening that the country would be deemed safe to open up the economy once the Covid positivity rate hits the 5 percent mark.

Chakwera said that, out of 11, 899 people tested the past week, 2,011 were positive for Covid, which is a positivity rate of 16.9 percent, 6 percent lower than it was the week before and over half of what it was at the start of the year.

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“We must therefore continue complying with the preventive measures we have put in place across the country so that the positivity rate continues to drop until it is below 5 percent, which is when we can safely open up the economy again,” he said.

Stakeholders have since welcomed the suggestion of opening up the economy.

Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) President Lauryn Nyasulu said in an interview Monday that reopening schools and bringing trade back to normalcy in the hospitality and entertainment industry would help sir trade.

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“As much as business seems usual, there have been changes in the way people normally operate. So, when the government opens the economy, it means people will start doing business like it used to be,” she said.

In a separate interview, Chancellor College Economics Professor Ben Kalua said pick-up in economic activities will depend on the performance of economies in neighboring countries.

“Malawi, being a predominantly importing nation, would rely on the performance of its trading partners such as South Africa if they also open up,” Kalua said.

The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) recently indicated that Malawi’s economic growth prospects for 2021 remain uncertain, mainly due to the second wave of Covid.

RBM Governor Wilson Banda says, since the beginning of 2021, the Covid infections and fatalities have increased sharply and this has compelled the government to re-impose strict containment measures.

In a recent monetary policy statement, Banda says as a result of the jump in Covid-19 cases, domestic economic activity, which started to rebound in the second half of 2020, has moderated.

Capital Hill had predicted that the local economy could swell by 4.5 percent in 2020, up from 1.2 percent in 2020.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has revised downwards its projection for Malawi’s economic growth from 4.7 percent to 2.1 percent in 2021.

According to Nico Asset Managers 2020 Economic Report, the revision has been necessitated in anticipation of the impact that coronavirus will have on the economy.

Economies continue to stagger on their knees at the knock of the pandemic, with the International Monitory Fund and World Bank indicating that growth prospects look blurred.

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