DFID calls Malawi’s bluff

They blew it up!

I wrote before about how both Malawi and DFID were in a bizarre bluffing game over the recent expulsion of the British High Commissioner following the leak of a memo criticizing Bingu wa Mutharika’s government. It seems that we’ve reached the end of the game, with the British Government moving first:

Malawi will no longer receive general budget support from the UK Government, Andrew Mitchell announced today.

General budget support is used to allow governments to deliver their own national strategies for poverty reduction against an agreed set of targets. This has now been suspended indefinitely.

The Development Secretary took the decision after the Government of Malawi repeatedly failed to address UK concerns over economic management and governance.

This is, of course, a load of toff. DFID has put up with Mutharika’s authoritarian streak for several years now. Maybe this is the underlying reason behind Mitchell’s decision, but this would not have happened nearly as soon without the diplomatic crisis several weeks ago.

Still, this is a pretty amazing reversal of what looked to be an incredibly robust relationship during Mutharika’s first term. This all changed when the election cemented his position. Ironically, the British have (in part) to blame for this by helping fund the fertilizer subsidy which made him so popular.

As I explained before, the more successful the aid is rerouted, the less successful this action will be at actually incentivising change. Life will be less painful in the short run, but what about the long run?

Of course, DFID takes a moment to take as much credit for past progress as possible:

The UK has helped improve food security in Malawi for over seven million people a year by providing them with high yielding maize and legume seeds via the Farm Input Subsidy Programme.

UK support to strengthen the health service has helped save the lives of 3,200 pregnant women and 40,000 children since 2004. UK funding has built over 3,200 primary school classrooms and 4,800 toilets since 2001, helping keep more girls in school.

Hat tip to Kim Yi Dionne for the link.

One thought on “DFID calls Malawi’s bluff

  1. Sam Gardner

    July 20, 2011 at 10:26am

    This shows – again – the effect of budget aid on the political space, strengthening mostly the powers that be. The potential role of budget aid in perpetuating presidential power, hampering democratic checks and balances, is threatening the model in more than one country.

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