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EU wants Malawi to do more

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The European Union (EU) has said Malawi has to make sure that it fully achieves benchmarks and conditions put in place for the country to resume receiving budgetary support.

The EU, which has declared that there will be no budget support in 2015/2016 Financial Year because of government’s failure to fully achieve the conditions, has, however, said it will continue supporting the country through other programmes.

Head of Unit Responsible for corporation with the countries of Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean, Fermin Melendro Arnaiz, said this in Lilongwe on Friday at the end of a week—long visit to Malawi.

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“The more important aspect I was saying is that we need to be working together for the next seven years. We have been working for 40 years. We want to concentrate on what we are doing and what we want to achieve. Budget support is much lobbied in this country. But, in fact, in the totality of Southern African Region, for the next programming period, there is only one budget support programme. So, the important aspect for us is that we agree on the priorities and we achieve the objectives. If the objective for example is to improve education, [we have to make sure] the quality of education is achieved, not the instrument [used] to achieve it,” he said.

Arnaiz added: “I did say that certain conditions and benchmarks that were established were not fully achieved. So, it’s not a question of black and white. The question is the degree of compliance with the requirement established and that we need to be very critical to further improve and need to be more effective in helping achieve what we want.”

Arnaiz, who was in the country with Chiara Pierdicca, International Aid Officer for Malawi, also stressed the strength of the relationship between the EU and Malawi, which is clocking 40 years this year. He highlighted the €560 million five-year support which started last year.

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He said although there may be need for improvement, he was impressed with some EUfunded projects.

“If the project about the maize strategic reserves is a success and you have now a speedy delivery of good quality maize to people in need, that means we have achieved something. Malawi has achieved something. That is what is interesting. Accountability is essential; accountability is to reply to what was asked. There are things we can improve but there is also a recognition of what has been done,” Arnaiz said.

At the press conference EU ambassador to Malawi, Marchel Gerrmann, also announced that EU support to the country would increase to over 200 million Euros of new programmes in 2016.

In the last meeting of Parliament, Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe told the House that EU and the World Bank had asked government to meet 20 conditions if they were to resume budget support.

Some of the conditions were the tabling of the Access to Information Bill (ATI) and elimination of ghost workers in public service and reforms in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).

Reacting to the announcement that there would be no EU budget support to Malawi this financial year, Gondwe said government was putting in place measures to deal with the situation.

“Initially we expected budget support to resume by March. Officials from EU came in December. They may come again in December this year to see what we are doing. We are very disappointed that they are not resuming budgetary support. This is one of the reasons making us come up with a revised budget,” Gondwe said.

Following the revelations of massive looting of government coffers in 2013, EU alongside other members of the Common Approach to Budget Support (Cabs) suspended support.

Before the suspension, Malawi depended on donors for 40 per cent of its recurrent budget and 80 per cent of development budget.

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