Roadmap to nowhere
In 2018, government launched a blueprint to revolutionize, energize and modernize the road, air, water and rail transport system in Malawi. The first phase of the 20-year K9 trillion Malawi National Transport Master Plan ended last year. Today, we can report, there is nothing on the ground regarding that plan.
Six years after government launched the K9 trillion Malawi National Transport Master Plan (NTMP), there is nothing to show for it, we can report.
By now, after the end of the first phase spanning 2017 to 2022, there should have been at least four institutions to champion the implementation of the plan: Urban Areas Transport Authority, Road Haulage Industry Council and Rail and Marine Regulatory Authority of Malawi.
There would also have been the National Transport Council, an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate implementation of the plan.
There should have also been some restructuring at the Ministry of Transport to ensure efficient implementation of the plan.
However, none of these structures have been created to-date.
And there is zero implementation of the whole plan on the ground.
The plan whose formulation was financed by the World Bank was aimed at providing a clear framework for develop the transport sector in Malawi as a way of boosting the economy.
“The NTMP has been formulated to support the future enhancement of Malawi’s economy. Its vision is the development of a coordinated and efficient transport infrastructure that fosters the safe and competitive operation of viable, affordable, equitable and sustainable transport services,” reads part of the plan.
According to the plan, the Urban Areas Transport Authority would have been new autonomous agency with legal powers to grant franchises for high-capacity bus routes with low-emission vehicles.
The Road Haulage Industry Council would have been tasked to strengthen the domestic trucking industry to reduce transport costs, through a system of registration, grading, and capacity building.
The Rail and Marine Regulatory Authority of Malawi would manage concessions in a coordinated fashion.
The National Transport Council would ensure the successful implementation of the plan to foster economic growth.
We asked Minister of Transport and Public Works Jacob Hara what has been implemented so far according to the plan.
He admitted there is nothing thus far, conceding that the country is good at coming up with blueprints that never materialize.
“It has been business as usual,” he said.
“We are so good at putting up things on paper but never implement them. We have not been working towards the master plan.
“The type of work and the type of effort that we were putting up was not matching with what we would want to realize. In the master plan, we had things that we needed to have done under certain timelines and we have not achieved those things.
“And so we have put efforts that we recover what was lost and come back to pace with the master plan,” he said.
However, Hara said currently the sector is working on catching up and implementing what is in the master plan through the Malawi 2063 agenda.
“The Malawi 2063 agenda is not speaking anything different from the National Transport Master Plan so what I am saying is that the Malawi 2063 did not bring anything new to the transport sector that is not contained in the master plan so the two are actually working together and agreeing and what exactly we need to do and by when.
“So we are not working on something else. We have not shifted; we are still following the master plan to achieve it,” he said.
Economic commentators Collen Kaluwa and Exley Silumbu have since said as far as Malawi’s transport system remains as archaic and moribund as it is, the country’ economy will continue to pay the price.
Silumbu said the transport sector facilitates flow and timely delivery of goods and services in any country.
“The infrastructure that we have is outmoded and congested it cannot contain the current traffic.
“If you just look at the import and export route, it is in a shambles. It has become costly to transport goods.
“The country cannot compete regionally, globally with such lacking infrastructure. Mind you this is a land locked country,” he said.
Kaluwa, on the other hand, said transport is important to the growth of the economy.
“Malawi is an agro-based economy. If you do not have good roads it means the farmers cannot transport the goods to the market. It is very shameful and pathetic that after all these years we still have a transport sector in a shambles.
“The roads which are being constructed are not that durable. What I can say is that Malawi is good at making policies and those policies are not implemented. We had the Vision 2020 and Rwanda implemented it,” he said.