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2. Economic Forum: Challenges and Opportunities of Social Proteccion Programmes in Malawi

Report of seminar held on 7 September 2010 in Lilongwe

Konrad Adenauer Foundation ( KAF) in collaboration with the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) and Economics Association of Malawi (ECAMA) organized an economic forum on social protection at Cresta Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe on 7th September 2010. The function was second in a series of such events aimed at discussing and finding common ground on pertinent economic issues affecting Malawi. Patricia Khomani presented a paper on: ‘Social Protection Programs and Factors that Contribute to their Success: a Broad Perspective’.
Konrad Adenauer Foundation ( KAF) in collaboration with the Malawi Economic Justice Network (MEJN) and Economics Association of Malawi (ECAMA) organized an economic forum on social protection at Cresta Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe on 7th September 2010. The function was second in a series of such events aimed at discussing and finding common ground on pertinent economic issues affecting Malawi. The first economic forum took place in June 2010 and discussions centered on determining Malawi’s economic and development model between capitalist and social market economy frameworks. In the second forum being presented in this report, Mrs. Patricia Khomani presented a paper on: ‘Social Protection Programs and Factors that Contribute to their Success: a Broad Perspective’. There were two discussants namely: Mr. Paul Kwengwere of ECAMA and Mr. Isaac Cheke Ziba, a lecturer at Catholic University. A plenary session followed presentations by these three persons. In her opening remarks, the German Deputy Head of Mission, Mrs. Cornelia Aust, spoke of the need to identify the responsibility of government, private sector and individuals with regard to social protection.

In her paper, Mrs. Khomani outlined social protection as being ‘a set of measures that society provides for its members to protect them against economic and social distress…’ whose instruments include social insurance, social assistance and market-based interventions. She noted that the advantages of social protection include reducing poverty and improving health, education and nutrition. On challenges the presenter cited limited resources, corruption as well as lack of monitoring and evaluation. Mrs. Khomani said the Malawi Government is integrating some safety net projects into social protection programs including social cash transfers, micro-credit schemes, fertilizer subsidy programs and public works initiatives. The presenter noted that various stakeholders including government and the private sector can help finance social protection in Malawi. Mrs. Khomani was of the opinion that social protection has the potential to break chronic or inter-generational poverty if well-managed.

The first discussant, Mr. Paul Kwengwere wondered whether social cash transfers were a disincentive to work and whether the public works program was reaching all areas in Malawi. He noted that social protection needs to take into account various factors such as gender in determining beneficiaries. The second discussant Mr. Isaac Cheke Ziba said all Malawians should help finance social protection. He also noted that it was a challenge to determine whether a universal or targeted approach should be taken in identifying who should benefit from social protection.

The Resident Representative for African Development Bank, Mr. Frank Kufwakwandi, said social protection should be linked to programs that can help people have capacity to look after themselves. General debate mainly focused on: ( a) universal/targeted approach (b)definition or identification of the poor (c) whether social protection would be a form of hand-outs that would ultimately encourage laziness (d) accessibility of social protection instruments to a wider society (e)involvement of people at grassroots level in formulating a social protection policy which is presently said to be at cabinet level in Malawi (f) sustainability/financing of social protection.

It was noted that the second economic forum had generated more questions than answers and it was felt more meetings of this nature were needed to clarify the outstanding issues. However, some of the suggestions that were put forward on the challenges affecting social protection in Malawi included: good governance, effective cost-benefit analyzes on social protection measures, enhancing participation / empowerment at the grassroots level, social protection to help create assets for beneficiaries.

Joseph Mlenga

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2. Wirtschaftsforum in Malawi, Sept. 2010 KAS Malawi

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