The Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) has asked President Joyce Banda not to abandon the current economic reforms taking place in the country.

Ecama patron Thomson Mpinganjira called on the president to stay on course during the association’s annual conference held in Mangochi over the weekend.

Mpinganjira said, as a country, Malawi should not sacrifice the gains already made.

“There will be many times when you will be tempted to change the course. My humble advice is, stay the course, do not abandon the reforms,” he said.

He further said there are a number of issues that need to be addressed with urgency in order to fast track the recovery of the economy.

On agriculture, Mpinganjira said government needs to support the Export Development Fund as it aims to fund those with export orders and small and medium scale growers of export produce.

“Tourism is another area identified in the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) as one of the priority areas hence the need to emphasise on introduction of an Electronic visa (e-visa) system through which any person wishing to visit Malawi from anywhere in the world can obtain a visa by using the immigration portal or website.

“The e-visa would make Malawi more accessible to tourists and potential investors as opposed to the present situation where the Malawi visa can only be obtained in countries where Malawi has an embassy,” said Mpinganjira.

He further said the system would enable government to access visa fees which are paid in foreign currency and the funds are stuck in foreign embassies due to exchange control barriers to repatriate them into the country.

He also called for the computerisation of immigration and passport controls at the country’s airports.

“It is time we accepted that Chileka Airport terminal is obsolete and not fit for purpose. Rehabilitation is good as an interim measure but the real solution is a new airport terminal,” said Mpinganjira.

On mining, Mpinganjira asked government to perfect its contract negotiation capacity.

“There are challenges facing our mining industry. First, local capacity to extract and export the minerals, as this industry requires huge investment and second due to challenges facing our energy sector. We, therefore, inevitably continue to rely on foreign investors in this industry,” he said.

Mpinganjira, who is also FDH Financial Holdings Managing Director, also said economic recovery demands that all citizens become productive in one way or another.

“It is disheartening to see the magnitude of idleness in Malawi. Over 90 percent of our population is active for only three months of the year (the agricultural growing season). We need to come up with deliberate strategies that will provide this population something to do that has economic value in between the active agricultural seasons,” said Mpinganjira.

In her address President Banda called on the economists to develop recommendations on how the ERP approach can be improved.

“I am a listening President and my government is a listening government. We are humbled enough to recognise that while we will always have the best intentions, we may not always have all the best answers. I am particularly looking to this group because you represent the cream of this nation,” said Banda.

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