A consultant hired to look at successes and failures of Vision 2020 has described the 25-year economic transformation blueprint as overambitious for Malawi.
Vision 2020 assumed that by the year 2020, Malawi, as a God fearing nation, would be secure, democratically mature, environmentally sustainable, self-reliant with equal opportunities for and active participation by all, having social services, vibrant cultural and religious values and a technologically driven middle-income economy.
But speaking to reporters after presenting a report during a validation meeting in Lilongwe yesterday, the consultant, Oliver Saasa, who is Chief Executive Officer for Premier Consult Limited of Zambia, said the target of becoming a middle income economy with per capita income of $1,000 was a far-fetched dream for Malawi.
“You must cut your dress according to your cloth. Dream big but align your dream to your capacity to realise it. If you intend to realise something that is much, much bigger, if your pocket has money for a bicycle, why should you dream that you can get a plane. It doesn’t mean that you don’t want a plane but you only have enough money for a bicycle,” Saasa said.
He observed that one of the biggest challenges with Vision 2020 was the absence of a plan to evaluate progress at regular intervals relative to the performance of medium-term development strategies.
Saasa said the consequence has been that there has been no reorientation of the vision in the light of either positive or negative progress.
He noted that the country has over the years registered weak economonic growth to realise the vision.
“GDP annual growth rate over 1994-2018 was well below expected growth to meet Vision 2020. Annual GDP growth rate averaged only 4.39 percent from 1994 to 2018. An annual GDP growth of around 9 percent was needed to sustainably attain the anticipated aspirations of the vision.
“Middle income status by 2020 with a per capita income of $1,000 required strong GDP growth. With a benchmark per capita income of $228 in 1996, achieving middle income status required an annual GDP growth rate in excess of at least nine percent, assuming a population growth rate of two percent. But Malawi’s growth has not only been volatile, but it never ever reached the minimum threshold for attaining the vision,”Saasa said.
He further noted that Malawi’s declining industrial production worked against achieving the vision.
“Industrial production increased 38.57 percent in August of 2017 over the same month in the previous year. Significant fluctuations suggest serious instability in the macro-economy.
“The poor performance is a reflection of low productivity and weak value addition especially in agriculture, mining, tourism, fisheries and transport,” he said.
Saasa added that during Vision 2020, Malawi has not moved from an importing and consuming nation into a producing and exporting nation with trade balance deteriorating from $84 million to $1.8 billion.
Currently, Malawi is developing a successor strategy to Vision 2020 in line with Africa’s Agenda 63.
National Planning Commission Director General, Thomas Munthali, described the revelations from Saasa’s report as insightful, saying it would help provide some guidance on what worked and what did not work in Vision 2020.