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European Union provides K27bn for roads

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Malawi government and the European Union (EU) have signed an agreement that will see the development partner providing €35 million (about K27 billion) for Rural Roads Improvement Programme.

The signing ceremony of the financing agreement took place in Lilongwe yesterday.

According to EU Ambassador, Marchel Gerrmann, the programme is important as it will promote agriculture.

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Gerrmann said rural road connectivity is vital for agricultural production, access to schools, health services and other social amenities.

“Through this programme, 1,200 kilometres of district roads in agricultural productive areas will be rehabilitated using labour-intensive methods involving more than 15,000 Malawians. In addition, small bridges will also be constructed. Through this rural roads programme, the EU is making an important contribution to [easing] accessibility challenges and economic development in the rural areas,” Germann said.

The new programme is the third to be signed under the National Indicative Programme between Malawi and the EU from the 11th European Development Funding (EDF).

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Gerrmann also appealed to government to fully decentralise management of rural roads to district councils.

“Honourable, the operationalisation of the devolution plan within the wider context of government’s own decentralisation policy will be critical milestone in the implementation. We urge the minister to consider accelerating the devolution of rural roads maintenance to the districts,” Gerrmann said.

Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, said the support complements government’s efforts in improving roads.

“Improved rural roads are very central to the rural transformation agenda of this government, especially when it comes to provision of public services and connecting them to markets where they can get better prices for their produce,” Gondwe said.

He added: “The programme we have signed today is complementary to the ongoing Agriculture Sector Wide Approach, which is our guiding framework on agriculture development, to which the European Union is one of the major contributors.”

Speaking on how government would ensure the money is used for its intended purpose, amid reports of financial mismanagement at both central and local government levels, Gondwe said strict measures would be taken before making payments.

According to the programme, district councils are a key stakeholder and will be central to the implementation of the programme as they will manage procurement of materials and maintenance of activities.

The Roads Fund Administration will handle payment to contractors.

Currently, Malawi and EU are celebrating 40 years of partnership under the theme ‘Working together for a better future’.

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