9.1 ASPIRATIONS FOR A FAIR AND EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF INCOME
Malawians aspire to have a fair and equitable distribution of income and wealth. To this effect, they endeavour to reduce disparities in access to land, education, employment and business opportunities between urban and rural people, men and women, people with and without disabilities.
9.2 Strategic Challenges and Options
Incomes in Malawi are very low and unevenly distributed in comparison to other African countries. Trends in income indicate a worsening of income distribution in the country. The Gini coefficient, a measure of income inequality, has deteriorated from 0.45 in 1968 to 0.62 in 1995.
Strategic challenges for a fair and equitable distribution of income include: reducing unemployment; promoting enterprise development; improving productivity of smallholder farmers; addressing tenancy issues; continuing with the liberalization of markets of agricultural produce; improving access to land by the landless; reducing gender inequality; addressing disability issues; and allocating social expenditures equitably between rural and urban areas.
9.2.1 Reducing Unemployment
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According to the National Statistical Office only 12 percent of the labour force were in formal employment in 1995. These figures include employment in agricultural estates. Thus the majority of Malawians are employed in the smallholder agriculture sector. Low returns in this sector have led to underemployment.
The challenge is for the economy to generate jobs to absorb the unemployed.
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Strategic options for reducing unemployment include:
Entrepreneurial training facilities are inadequate and demand for credit far outstrips supply. This leads to the marginalisation of certain sections or groups in society
9.2.2. 1 Strategic
The strategic challenge for enterprise development is to promote micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) to boost economic growth and create employment.
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Strategic options to enterprise development include:
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Most estates especially those growing tobacco use the (visiting) tenant system. Remuneration to tenants is generally low and their returns do fluctuate from year to year. Also in the event of crop failure or fall in prices, the uncompensated cost incurred during production is usually borne by the tenant.
The challenge is to ensure fair returns to those involved in production and marketing of tobacco.
9.3.2 Strategic options
Strategic options for addressing the tenancy issue include:
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Over 80 percent of the total active population in the rural areas are smallholder farmers with very low levels of production. Most farmers are too poor to afford inputs such as hybrid seeds and fertilizer, and lack collateral as security for credit. There is also lack of sufficient extension advice extended to these farmers. These services tend to concentrate on modern farmers.
Given that 90 percent of the population resides in the rural areas, the challenge is how to raise incomes of smallholder farmers.
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Strategic options for improving smallholder agriculture include:
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Selling prices of most crops produced by smallholder farmers are very low. Although there have been some steps to liberalize the marketing system of agricultural produce, there remain some distortions in pricing and marketing of commodities such as maize and tobacco.
The strategic challenge is maintaining commodity prices in line with input prices and ensuring increased and evenly distributed private sector participation.
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Strategic options for improving marketing systems include:
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The results of the 1992/93 National Sample Survey of Agriculture (NSSA) show that the poorest and the most vulnerable households in Malawi are the landless who hold less than 0.5 hectare of land. The production levels of these poor households are extremely low.
The challenge is to improve access to land by the landless and to shift the landless from the high to the low population density areas.
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Strategic options for improving access to land include:
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In Malawi, gender inequalities are apparent in all spheres. Women have limited access and control to means of production such as land, credit and technology, and limited rights and control on their reproductive health.
There is a tendency to favour men over women in the provision of credit and extension services despite the fact that in Malawi women are key producers of food.
The challenge for reducing gender inequality is to mainstream gender issues in all aspects of development.
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Strategic options for reducing gender inequality include:
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People with disabilities represent about 2.9 per cent of the total Malawi population. Of these 93 percent live in rural areas where their problems are further aggravated by lack of appropriate infrastructure to enable them access various social services in health, education and training.
The strategic challenge is to formulate a coherent national policy that clearly addresses issues concerning people with disabilities.
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The strategic options for addressing disability issues include:
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Social services are sparsely situated and are of poor quality especially in rural areas. Over half of Malawian households live 5 kilometers or more from a health centre. In education, although enrolment rates have improved significantly following the introduction of free primary school in 1994, other education Indicators are poor.
The strategic challenge for increasing social services is ensuring that health and education services are equitably distributed both in urban as well as in rural areas.
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The strategic options for increasing social services include:
The challenge is to increase the quantity and quality of water, transport and housing infrastructure in rural areas.
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The following strategic options will increase the quantity and quality of water;
The challenge to be addressed in providing rural transport is promoting efficient and affordable rural transport.
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The strategic options to improving rural transport include:
The strategic challenge to improving housing is how to promote better and affordable housing for low-income segments of the population.
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The strategic options to improving housing for low-income people include: