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Poverty to decline to 69.2 percent in 2017

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The World Bank says it projects the percentage of people living below the international poverty line of $1.90 to marginally decline by 0.4 percentage points in 2017.

In its 6th Malawi Economic Monitor, the bank says the percentage will fall from 69.6 percent in 2016 to 69.2 percent in 2017.

The development comes at a time official poverty rates for 2016/17, based on the national poverty line, are being prepared by the National Statistical Office using the Fourth Integrated Household Survey (IHS 4).

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The bank has attributed the marginal drop in poverty levels to increased rainfall in the last cropping season, which resulted in higher levels of agricultural output than in the previous two years.

Malawi is a predominantly agricultural country, with a large portion of its population engaged in subsistence agriculture in rural areas.

Thus, the performance of rain-fed agriculture has significant ramifications for poverty reduction.

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“Meaningful poverty reduction will be driven by growth in the sectors in which the vast majority of the poor derive their livelihoods, particularly agriculture.

However, the agricultural sector is highly prone to price and weather shocks, with agricultural productivity having remained stagnant over the past decade.

“Thus, the transformation of the agricultural sector remains a critical development priority, as do measures to promote private sector growth and job creation.

“A key element of agricultural transformation is land reform, which can boost both inclusion and agricultural productivity,” says the bank.

It says measures to promote productive employment and self-employment in the non-agricultural sectors would complement these efforts, serving as a cushion to protect the poor from shocks that impact agricultural incomes.

“In order to achieve higher levels of poverty reduction, it is necessary to understand and address the constraints on the formation and growth of non-farm enterprises, and medium and large enterprises,” reads the economic monitor.

Analysts have argued that Malawi needs an economic growth rate of at least six percent per annum to reduce poverty.

In his inaugural speech in 2014, President Peter Mutharika promised to grow the economy by 7.5 percent between 2014 and 2019.

However, growth has remained subdued in the past three years, raising fears Malawi may not achieve Mutharika’s ambitious growth targets.

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