Five years after Oxfam warned that more Malawians will continue to live in poverty if inequality continues to rise, with estimates indicating that by 2020, 1.5 million more Malawians will be poor, various studies have vindicated the report.
In the report— Dangerous Divide; State of Inequality in Malawi— Oxfam indicated that in 2015, eight million people—50 percent of the country’s population— lived in poverty.
“Even if inequality stays broadly at the level it is now, there will still be 400,000 additional people living in poverty in Malawi by 2020. Unless Malawi acts now to reduce inequality, even rapid economic growth will fail to reduce poverty in the country,” read the 2015 report in part.
Five years down the line, while Oxfam has described the period as a mixed bag, Integrated Household Survey which was done by National Statistical Office (NSO) released last year and other corresponding studies by Unicef have shown that the percentage of people living below the poverty line has increased from 50.7 percent to 51.5 percent.
“There have certainly been some efforts that helped to start narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor but we also noted some things that remain regressive,” said Oxfam Country Director, Lingalireni Mihowa in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.
According to Mihowa some of the things that have not worked out as they expected is addressing corruption.
She said other challenges that have widened the rich and the poor gap are the two humanitarian shocks that hit the country in the five years—Cyclone Idai and Covid-19 pandemic.
Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organisations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty also notes stagnant growth in Malawi’s education and health sector and that agricultural remains problematic.
However, Mihowa said they have seen efforts to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people by among others expansion of the social protection programmes.
In its Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CPI) index of 2020 Oxfam suggests to the government to Increase education spending to meet the global education commitment to spend 20 percent of total budgets.
Economic expert, Betchani Tcheleni, from the Polytechnic, said the country has been dealing with symptoms and not the problem; hence, it is not surprising that the gap between the rich-and-the-poor is still wide.
Presenting the K2 trillion 2020/21 National Budget in parliament recently, Minister of Finance, Felix Mlusu, said the budget will focus on achievement of sustainable and inclusive growth, macroeconomic stability and sound financial management.