Malawi embassies undergo reforms


Government has announced a number of strategies to buttress the strategic relevance of embassies and curb excessive expenditures, and the strategies include downsizing and rationalising personnel both for diplomats and local staff in Malawi missions abroad.

The process—which is part of the Public Sector Reforms Programme—has further seen government reducing the number of diplomats from the established positions of 234 to 152 and for local staff from 217 to 184, Foreign Affairs Minister George Chaponda announced Thursday.

He added that government has rolled out a performance management system for all diplomats and local staff in foreign missions and “promotions and further trainings and other rewards and sanctions have also been developed to be used for each level of performance”.


Chaponda added that as the reforms process continues in his ministry, some embassies will be closed while others will have to be opened depending on how significant they are or will be to Malawi.

But a foreign policy expert, John Chikago, has cautioned government to tread carefully on the reforms so that they do not end up churning more negatives than positives.

On the reduction of diplomatic mission staff, Chaponda said government has saved K3.1 billion in personal emoluments this fiscal year alone, adding that a further K2.2 billion in rentals for houses of diplomats and school fees for their children has been saved.


“With these further reductions, government will make a further saving of K2.3 billion in personal emoluments, rentals and school fees for diplomats in the next financial year. In total, therefore, government is poised to make a saving of K7.3 billion over two fiscal years,” said Chaponda.

On modalities regarding the downsizing of the diplomatic missions staff, Chaponda said contracts for some staff in foreign missions have not been renewed while others have been recalled to the ministry.

“Apart from the standard tenure of three years for each diplomat, the ministry will also use these performance appraisal results as a mechanism for recommending either a recall of a diplomat or extension of tenure of office,” said Chaponda.

He added that government has given a deadline of end of this month for all embassies and foreign missions to develop their strategic plans based on government standard.

“Oftentimes, we have heard people suggesting that people in embassies do not work, rather loaf. Through this mechanism, we wish to have clearly laid benchmarks upon which embassies and foreign missions will be judged,” said Chaponda.

But in an interview yesterday, Chikago said any decision to downsize personnel in foreign missions and close or open embassies should be based on the strategic consideration within the diplomatic policy.

“There are certain missions which cannot be closed because of the nature of the diplomatic relations that are there between the two countries. For instance, you cannot just close a G8 embassy simply because they are not giving us aid.

“We need to look at things like export markets and decide whether this embassy has to be opened and this has to be closed. If you open an embassy in a particular country, the question should be what are the benefits?” said Chikago.

During the mid-year budget review meeting, opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) queried the K2 billion increase in the allocation to the ministry at a time other ministries, departments and agencies had suffered cuts.

But Chaponda argued that the increase was largely due to the fluctuation of the kwacha, the currency in which the national budget is while personal emoluments of diplomats and other recurrent transactions for foreign missions are in foreign currencies.

Malawi has 21 missions abroad which include China, South Africa, the United States of America (USA), Germany and Brazil.

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