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Malawi fights inequality on paper—Oxfam report

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By Deogratias Mmana

Malawi’s fight against inequality is largely on paper.

This is according to a report called Commitment to reducing inequality (CRI) released by Oxfam on Thursday.

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The report says the country’s interventions are largely on paper and not in practice.

The CRI looks at the countries’ policies and their performance and impact on reducing inequality.

The report, which assesses Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries, shows that the region is extremely unequal.

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“Though Sadc countries have seen impressive economic growth in the past two decades, and significant reductions in poverty in 11 countries, at least half have seen a widening gap between the richest and the poorest people,” reads the report.

The report says the concentration of wealth has led to a small but growing group of fantastically rich people and a majority struggling to meet their most basic needs such as quality education, healthcare and decent jobs.

It says in all Sadc countries, the top one percent earn more than 14 percent of national income, rising to 25 percent in Angola, Malawi and Mozambique.

Presenting the report, Oxfam’s International Inequality Research Coordinator Anthony Kamange said Malawi ranks on position 8 in the Sadc, 13 in Africa and 97 in the world among countries experiencing inequality.

“Malawi is middling in the Sadc. It has a good tax structure. On paper, it does well on labour rights and minimum wage but it could do more on public services, tax collection and reducing vulnerable employment. There is good political will to reduce inequality,” Kamange said.

On public services, he said while 196 million Sadc citizens have no coverage of basic health care services, 10 million of such citizens are from Malawi.

He said while Malawi also has good paper work on social protection interventions, implementation of the same of the same is scanty.

With regard to the extractive industry, Kamange said Malawi loses $56.7 million each year to corporate tax abuse and tax evasion.

He said the country performs poorly on tax collection at 17 percent of its potential.

Principal Secretary for Economic Planning and Development, Winford Masanjala, said inequality is real in Malawi.

Minister of Labour Vera Kamtukule said while the government is accused of doing well on paper, there are some areas in which it is doing well on the ground.

“What roles shall we all play? Government’s budget alone cannot reduce inequality. Let us join hands,” Kamtukule said.

Executive Director for the Economics Association of Malawi, Frank Chikuta, said Malawi does not have the wealth to share and called on authorities and stakeholders to create such wealth.

Chikuta called for the empowering of citizens through good quality education and the need for a corporate sector which is tax compliant and which invests in the poor and vulnerable with the intention of weaning them from poverty.

Executive Director for Youth And Society Charles Kajoloweka said for Malawi and Africa to improve inequality, there is need for sound political leadership.

“People go into leadership to plunder and destroy the economy. We also need to build strong institutions and not stifle civic space,” he said.

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