Government has acknowledged the gap between the rich and the poor in Malawi continues to widen, despite various social protection interventions being implemented.
Director of Poverty Reduction in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs Patricia Zimpita said during a panel discussion in Lilongwe on Tuesday that over nine million Malawians live below the poverty line and 20 percent of those are in extreme poverty.
The event was organised by Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Malawi with support from International Labor Organisation.
Zimpita decried the negative impact of natural disasters, the Covid pandemic and global economic trends on vulnerable populations in the country.
“Over 50 percent of the population is estimated to be living under the poverty line and 20 in a hundred of that population are in abject poverty, which means government has a duty to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are cushioned from risks and that the poor are able to participate in economic activities,” Zimpita said.
She said the government of Malawi considers social protection as a critical tool in the fight against poverty, resilience building and promotion of human development and economic growth.
But citing the example of the Affordable Inputs Programme. Misa-Malawi Chairperson Tereza Ndanga said politicians have turned such initiatives into campaign tools in order to gain political mileage at the expense of tax payers and intended beneficiaries.
“The AIP for instance is a good programme but has of late become too political, Government is investing millions into social protection programmes with little to show; that is where the media comes in to highlight such inefficiencies,” Ndanga said.
But Chief Economist in the Poverty Reduction and Social Protection Division of the Ministry of Finance Yona Phiri said it is practically impossible to eliminate poverty, saying the goals should be reducing the gap between the rich and the poor.
The United Nations is supporting the Government of Malawi in the implementation of social protection advocacy initiatives through advocacy.