Chancellor College professor of economics Winfold Masanjala has emphasised the need to narrow the economic inequality gap through, among other things, establishment of free secondary education to counter rapid population growth and, in turn, grow the economy.
He was speaking in Mangochi when he made a presentation at the ongoing Economics Association of Malawi annual conference Thursday.
He further highlighted economic gains made in the economy were not enough to alleviate poverty because it is not accompanied by a reduction in inequality which has increased between 2004 and 2017.
“There is need to invest heavily in child and youth development through appropriate education and health policies and programmes and keep more girls in school but also take concrete actions to drastically reduce infant mortality rates
“We should expand the skill content of African educational systems to promote employability of the working population and increase overall productivity to leverage demographic dividends in Africa,” Masanjala said.
He said government should implement progressive taxes and transfers through marginal tax rates and well-targeted social protection that favour the poor, promote labour-intensive manufacturing, labour market flexibility, entrepreneurship growth, infrastructural development to create more jobs and ensure that growth concentrates where the bottom 40 percentiles make their livelihoods to promote inclusive growth.
Reserve Bank of Malawi Governor Dalitso Kabambe said Malawi’s annual population growth rate of 2.9 percent against an average economic growth rate of 4.4 percent for the past 55 years implies that the nation’s wealth accumulation is at a snail’s pace.
“Apart from other factors, this explains why Malawi’s per capita GDP remains low. Malawi is demonstrated to have one of the lowest public spending purses. The environment is also at the mercy of a rapidly growing population.
“We have a situation in the country where all livelihoods of 84 percent of people living in rural areas revolving around the natural environment; their energy (firewood and/or charcoal), their food (farmland, fisheries and others), their incomes for all others (clothes, health and education spending) from trees, farmland and other natural-based economic activities. The widespread devastation of the environment tells it all in terms of the impact population growth is exerting on the economy,” Kabambe said.
A recent report released by the African Development Bank showed that poverty remains widespread at 51.5 percent in Malawi as at 2017, up from 50.4 percent in 2010.
The report states that poverty stands at 56.6 percent perpetuated by food insecurity and very low incomes with GNI per capita of $360 (about K263,000) in 2016.
GNI per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final income in a year, divided by its population and reflects average income of citizens.