MPs urge rethink over UK aid to Malawi

Schoolchildren in Malawi The UK says its support has helped more than 250,000 more girls get a formal education

Related Stories

The government has been urged to rethink how it gives aid to Malawi after the change of leadership in the African country earlier this year.

The UK suspended direct funding in 2011 amid concerns about mismanagement and human rights violations, while still giving support through other channels.

A group of MPs said there had been "dramatic changes" for the better since President Joyce Banda came to power.

But ministers say they want political and economic progress to be maintained.

The UK gives more than £90m every year to Malawi - one of the poorest countries in Africa - which is focused on supplying drugs, improving sanitation and supporting crop development.

'Deserving support'

But direct funds to the Malawi exchequer for poverty reduction - known as general budget support - were stopped in 2011 amid concerns about economic mismanagement and the suppression of opposition groups by the then President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Start Quote

Malawi has seen dramatic changes over recent months”

End Quote Malcolm Bruce Lib Dem MP

Funding, instead, was directed through non-governmental organisations and other bodies working in the country and not reduced in size.

But following President Mutharika's death in April, relations with the UK have improved and international development secretary Andrew Mitchell recently visited the country.

The UK was among countries to provide urgent assistance after Malawi devalued its currency by a third in May - a move the international community said was necessary to address short-term shortages of fuel and to make its economy more competitive in the long term.

President Banda also introduced a floating exchange rate regime and lifted controls on currency trading, moves also seen as designed to appease foreign donors.

'Protecting poorest'

The Commons international development committee said the UK should revert to providing direct support as soon as possible if economic and political changes were not reversed.

"Malawi has seen dramatic changes over recent months," said Malcolm Bruce, the Lib Dem MP who chairs the cross-party body.

"When we visited the country in March, the political climate was very unstable and the economy had almost entirely ceased to function. President Banda began to fix these problems immediately upon coming to office and the policies she is currently pursuing deserve UK support.

"If this progress is maintained, general budget support will be the most efficient option - both for the Malawian people and the UK taxpayer."

In response, Mr Mitchell acknowledged the government of Malawi was making "good progress" but said "the nature of future British support for Malawi - including general budget support - depends on political and economic progress being maintained".

He added: "Britain's support for Malawi has helped protect the poorest people following the devaluation of the kwacha as well as ensuring more than 100,000 babies will be born with the help of skilled medical professionals and more than a quarter of a million more girls attend primary school."

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Politics stories

RSS

Features

  • Peaky Blinders publicity shotBrum do

    Why is the Birmingham accent so difficult to mimic?


  • Oliver CromwellA brief history

    The 900-year-story behind the creation of a UK parliament


  • Image of Ankor Wat using lidarJungle Atlantis

    How lasers have revealed an ancient city beneath the forest


  • TigerBard taste? Watch

    Are trailer videos on social media spoiling theatre?


  • Tesco signBest before?

    Has Tesco passed its sell-by date, asks Richard Anderson


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.