Wednesday, July 4, 2012

JB and Company are ignoring ICT at their own peril

I was going through the final communique from the just ended National Dialogue on the Economy and was surprised to see that nothing was discussed regarding ICT. Am one of the people who believes that ICT can tranform the economy given the attention it deserves. However our leaders think otherwise!!! I think this is a big mistake and we will pay heavily for it.

Here is the final communique sourced from the Nyasa Times:



MALAWI GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY (MGDS) II

Conference observed that:-

1.The MGDS as formulated prior to the coming in of the current Government had too many priorities, and noted that there is need to focus on few priorities that are pro-growth, represent quick wins, and are highly effective;

2.There is need to focus on sectors that can generate employment; and

3.The identification of Agriculture, Tourism, Energy, Mining and Infrastructure met this criteria.

B. Improving business environment

The conference observed that:-

1.There is urgent need for Malawi to expedite the process of simplifying and streamlining processing of business permits, work permits, and visas to facilitate economic growth, and thereby allowing private sector to develop;

2.Access land is a major hindrance to foreign direct investment in Malawi; and

3. There is urgent need to establish a predictable, transparent and seamless incentives regime.

C. Political will for credible reforms

The Conference cited poor economic governance as a major contributor to Malawi’s low position on the economic development scale. The conference therefore noted that:-

1. There is need to implement and execute reforms that are credible; and assure the private sector that government is serious about and committed to creating a conducive environment to re-establish its economic reputation;

2. There is lack of strategies and coordination to translate policy into action between and among Government departments;

3. There is need for zero-tolerance on corruption.

D. The role of cooperating and development partners

The conference observed that:-

1. There is need for Government to initiate, develop and own a development ideology which should also be owned by and communicated to its population and thereafter secure donor buy-in;

2. Malawi needs to identify and develop projects that will gradually reduce donor dependence overtime;

3. Malawi needs to guide donors on which sectors they should invest; and

4. Malawi should engage donors to diversify their investment from basic education to tertiary education, especially skills training.

E. Regional integration and international trade

The conference acknowledged that there are a number of efforts that are being implemented to attract international trade in Malawi. The conference, however, noted that:-

1. There is need to create a conducive environment including:
-Reducing non-tariff barriers;
-Reducing period taken to access services and obtain licences such as registering a company; and

-Improving regulatory environment and infrastructure to facilitate regional and international trade.

2. Malawi should consider exploring trade facilitation with selected strategic partners notwithstanding its engagement in SADC and COMESA trade protocols;

3. There is need to prioritise and focus on a few strategic transport

corridors.

F. The role of SMEs

The conference noted that there is need for Malawi to recognise the important role of Small and Medium Enterprises in job creation. To this end, the conference urged Government to promote entrepreneurial skills and develop a well-articulated delivery strategy for economic growth and job creation.

G. Monetary Policy

The conference acknowledged the current positive developments in engendering the independence of the monetary policy committee of the Reserve Bank of Malawi. However, the conference was mindful of the challenges encountered in coordination and balancing between the exercise of monetary policy by the Reserve Bank of Malawi on the one hand and the Ministry of Finance, on the other.

H. Agriculture


The conference observed that Malawi will continue to depend on agriculture as the mainstay of its economy in the short to medium term. The conference, therefore, noted that:-

1. Diversification and up-scaling of production of non-traditional crops such as coffee, rice, sunflower, wheat and legumes are a necessity;

2. There is urgent need to review the Strategic Crops Act as it disadvantages some crops and brings distortions in the industry; and

3. There is need to focus on and encourage large-scale commercial farming by easing procedures for obtaining land.

I. Tobacco industry

1. The conference noted that the marketing mechanism for tobacco, that is (auction system), does not guarantee stability of prices and volumes in the industry.

2. The conference further recognised that in the short term, while the auction system couldcontinue, Malawi should seriously consider adopting (Integrated Production System) which will promote contract farming;

3. The conference proposed the creation of a stakeholders forum, namely Tobacco Council, to foster dialogue for the proposed reforms in the industry. This will overcome vested interest that hinders reform of the industry;

4. The conference recognises the challenge that the industry poses to the environment and recommends parallel programmes that are aimed at improving aforestation.

J. Tourism industry

While recognising that tourism is increasingly contributing to the GDP, the conference noted that the industry faces many challenges. The conference therefore recognised the need to:-

1. Restock game reserves and national parks;
2. Attract more direct, cost effective international flights into Malawi thereby promoting competition;
3. Decisively resolve issues surrounding Air Malawi;
4. Improve infrastructure including roads, utilities (water and power) and airports;
5. Simplify the system of visa issuance for tourists;
6. Improve tourism investment climate, including establishment of tourism industry board; and
7. Broden the tax incentives for investment in the industry.

K. Energy sector

The Conference:-

1. Expressed concern over the intermittent supply of electricity and the negative impact this has on industry and commerce;

2. Took note that there have been efforts to establish new hydro stations such as the Kapichira II project, the MCC accountproject and the interconnection with Mozambique;

3. Observed the need to manage the demand in the industry by encouraging economic usage of electricity, including usage of energy saver bulbs;

4. Noting the impact that the interconnector project with Mozambique has in the short term, the conference encouraged that the same efforts should be initiated with Zambia and encouraged Government to explore establishment of coal generated electricity;

5. Acknowledged the growing technology in renewable energy, and hence, urged Government to promote investment in wind, solar and other renewable energy sources;

6. Applauded Government’s decision to liberalize tariffs in the sector, hence, the conference was optimistic that the support from Millennium Challenge Compact would hasten the restructuring of the legal framework, management and reduction in transmission losses.

L. Mining sector

The conference:-

1. Acknowledged that Malawi is richly endowed with mineral resources, including uranium, bauxite, heavy sands, silicon, niobium, coal, tantalum and graphite.

2. Recognised that investment in mining requires long term commitment and demands a lot of infrastructure such as electricity, water and roads.

3. Observed the need for capacity for concession negotiations, ability to abide to contractual obligations, and a predictable legal regime for conflict resolution.

M. Malawians in diaspora

The conference noted significant potential of Malawians in diaspora to provide foreign exchange, skills and capital transfer. The conference was informed that Government has set up a diaspora desk in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is in the process of developing terms of reference for the establishment a department responsible for diaspora affairs.

WAY FORWARD

The conference acknowledged that the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy remains the overarching reference document for the development agenda. However, the conference observed that the MGDS priorities as originally formulated are not focused, and therefore not able to realise quick development results. The conference, therefore recommends that Government narrows down its priorities to say, three to five.

- The conference noted the need for political will to carry through the proposed reforms. The conference, therefore, congratulated the Government for the bold reforms undertaken by the current administration. The conference urged the leadership to sustain the momentum at all levels of decision making.

- The conference recommends that each of those sectors identify few key strategic projects that will drive economic growth in the short and medium term.

- The conference recommends that the creation of the office responsible for diaspora affairs be expedited. This should be responsible for taping into expertise and facilitate remittances from the diaspora.

- The conference recommends that Government should put in place measures to develop human capital to enhance realisation of this road map.

- The conference recommends that Government should enhance coordination and harmonization of Government policies and implementation mechanisms.

- The conference recommends that Government should develop a framework for resource mobilisation.

- The Conference recommends that Government should renew its commitment to fight corruption in order to improve the ease of doing business.