‘Inequality major development challenge: Gap between the rich and poor continues to rise’

Lilongwe: Inequality has been described as the country’s major development challenge with poverty remaining extreme as the gap between the richest and the rest continues to rise.

An analysis conducted by Oxfam in the country whose report was launched on Wednesday in Lilongwe says if left unchecked the situation can lead to 1.5 million more Malawians being poor by 2020.

The report, ‘Closing the Divide in Malawi: How to Reduce Inequality and Increase Prosperity for All’ presents a vision, roadmap and policy recommendations for a more inclusive, equitable and prosperous Malawi.

It shows that to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) government must commit to policies which prevent the country’s elites from appropriating benefits of economic growth and instead ensure that benefits are distributed to all.

The report shows that inequality is not inevitable but the result of policy choices made by those in power and as such there is need for collaborative efforts by government, development partners and institutions to work for all especially for those who are vulnerable rather than serving powerful vested interests.

Speaking when he launched the report Chief Director of Economic Planning and Development in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Peter Simbani said government is committed to fighting inequality of all forms through government’s blueprint of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MDGS III).

He said the MDGS III has domesticated 17 SDGs which are vital in the development agenda.

Simbani hoped that through the MDGS III the country would be able to achieve equitable and prosperous.

He observed that much as he appreciates the observations and recommendations of the report, there is need to incorporate issues of population growth which he said is also affecting development process.

We need to address issues of population growth if we are to achieve what we preach. Population growth management is very important in the development agenda, the Chief Director said.

He said the fight against inequality is not government’s fight alone but for all. He, therefore, called upon all stakeholders to work together in this fight.

Oxfam in Malawi Interim Country Director, Lingalireni Mihowa said the country has a huge task in addressing the drivers of inequality now than later in order to achieve the much desired development.

She said no economic growth would be inclusive if the country does not tackle inequality first saying the widening gap between the rich and the poor is throwing a lot of Malawians into extreme poverty.

Rising inequality is dangerous because it concentrates power and wealth in the hands of a few individuals leaving a majority of ordinary citizens voiceless and their needs uncared for, Mihowa pointed out.

The Interim Country Director said like elsewhere inequality in Malawi is not inevitable saying there are steps the country can take to close the gap between the rich and the poor thereby building a country for the majority not simply the supper rich at the top.

Oxfam International Regional Director for Southern Africa, Nellie Nyan’gwa observed that time has come for the country to go beyond well crafted policy documents but take urgent action to tackle poverty and inequality.

In 2015, Oxfam in Malawi released a report ‘A Dangerous Divide � the State of Inequality in Malawi’ which brought to the spotlight the growing problem of inequality.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA