Malawi: High Cost of Living - Catholic Commission Speaks On Citizens' Desperation

Malawi flag.
8 December 2021

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) has added its voice to the growing calls for the Tonse Alliance government to listen to the cries of Malawians over the rising cost of living.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 entitled 'Heed the Cry of the People; The Call of Moses', and signed by its National Coordinator, Boniface Chibwana, CCJP says failure by the majority of Malawians to afford basic needs is inimical to the social and economic development of the society; a real threat to the sanctity and essence of human life.

"God expects any leadership to do all it can to promote social justice for the people, His creation. When there is grave injustice in any society there is serious violence to people's rights and dignity.

"CCJP is deeply concerned by the prevailing undesirable socio-economic situation in Malawi, which has left many poor people hopeless and distressed.

"We share the cries of the people of Malawi as they are genuine concerns that have characterized various aspects of service provision," reads the statement in part.

The statement quotes the Bible, Exodus 3:7 "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering".

CCJP says the existence of social injustices perpetrated, tolerated or neglected by those governing is an affront to the foundations of the Christian faith.

Social protection amid rising cost of living

CCJP says the soaring cost of living in the country is a threat to the enjoyment of basic human rights. We take cognizance of the fact that the situation may be as a result of global economic phenomena that have adversely affected the domestic macroeconomic environment.

"This notwithstanding, CCJP reiterates that the government is obligated to cushion and protect the poor from such socio-economic shocks. With the poverty levels still very high in Malawi the current rising cost of living has potential to further throw many households in abject poverty. Merely preaching austerity measures and calling for patience from the citizenry by the Government is a mockery to human dignity and is tantamount to Government's abrogation of its duties. It is deplorable that the prevailing social protection mechanisms do not comprehensively include marginalized groups like persons with disabilities, the elderly and the urban poor.

"The majority of Malawians rely on the public health system which is already challenged in many ways. Reports of shortage of essential drugs and medical commodities amid questionable expiry of drug stocks at the Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) raise critical health governance questions.

"While CCJP appreciates the efforts done by the Government to rectify the defects rocking the public health sector, we are concerned that the authorities have not been transparent and accountable. It is clear that regular monitoring and auditing of the drug supply chain management was seriously wanting to allow drugs worth K2 billion expire at the CMST while the drug management institution is also reported to have incurred huge debts. The situation is worrisome and calls for urgent accountability actions by relevant duty bearers," it reads.

Affordable Input Programme (AIP)

According to CCJP, the uncertainties surrounding the smooth implementation of the Affordable Input Programme (AIP) regarding the government's contractual agreement with suppliers, logistical arrangements, pricing, availability and accessibility of the inputs are a great threat to the livelihood of many. It calls for the de-politicisation of the AIP to ensure its effectiveness and efficiency.

Delays in procurement of maize by ADMARC

CCJP notes that that the continued delays for ADMARC to buy maize from subsistence farmers would lead to the economic exploitation of poorest farmers.

Fuel procurement mess and CCJP says it is "deeply saddened" with the reported mess in the fuel procurement at the parastatal, National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA) as local transporters are still being side-lined and their voices ignored. CCJP feels that the lack of transparency and accountability in the shady introduction of a new fuel procurement system at NOCMA smacks of a slap in the face of ordinary and hardworking Malawians who deserve a good business environment.

Hopelessness

According to CCJP, the prevailing mood in the country is that of hopelessness, loss of direction and betrayal. It says the Tonse Alliance government was voted into power because its campaign promises gave hope to most Malawians regarding being taken out of dehumanizing levels of poverty.

It says recent street demonstrations are the beginning of the manifestation of people's hopelessness, feeling of having been betrayed and their anger.

"The citizens' anger is fuelled by the general perception that the country lacks decisive leadership. We pray that while citizens have a right and duty to express their dissatisfaction with the performance of their government everything should be done according to laws of the land," reads the statement.

Among other considerations, CCJP says the government should urgently institute inclusive and transparent social protection mechanisms to cushion the poor from the social economic hardships.

It says the ACB should effectively investigate potential elements of corruption and rent seeking surrounding NOCMA's operations and that the logical conclusion to the cases be expedited; that the government ensures that Public Sector Reforms are citizen centered that enhance social accountability in public service provision; and that the Government should match its decorated local and international speeches with actions that would benefit Malawians; that the government should heed the cry of the citizens.

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