Sweden resumes aid to Malawi

Sweden on Tuesday announced a resumption of aid to impoverished Malawi with a $5.5 million package and praise for President Bingu wa Mutharika's anti-corruption drive.

The International Monetary Fund and donor countries suspended more than $75 million in aid in 2002 due to concerns over corruption and overspending during the rule of former president Bakili Muluzi.

Mutharika, who took over from Muluzi a year ago, has made Malawi’s economic revival his main priority, hoping to lift the country’s 11 million people from poverty and win back donor confidence.

“The aid resumption is a result of government’s commitment to reduce expenditure and its strong anti-corruption drive,” said a statement from the Swedish government issued in the capital Lilongwe.

“Sweden is now releasing its budget support to Malawi due to the fact that Malawi has made a considerable progress on macro-economic stabilisation and maintaining control of public expenditure,” it added.

Malawi’s parliament is due to adopt a new budget in June.

Some 60 percent of Malawians live on less than a dollar a day in the former British colony which is grappling with the AIDS pandemic affecting about 14 percent of adults in Malawi, or 770,000 people.

A five-member IMF team held talks in Malawi in February to review the government’s progress in cleaning up its affairs and possibly unlock financial aid.



Interns ran Swedish aid projects: report

The Foreign Ministry has criticized its handling of its own portion of Sweden's foreign aid budget, with large-scale Swedish NGO umbrella organization Forum Syd condemning the report as "a slap in the face".

Interns ran Swedish aid projects: report

The internal report looked at how the ministry managed the 12 billion kronor ($1.87 billion) it contributes directly to foreign aid projects. The report did not examine projects funded and managed directly by Sida, Sweden’s primary foreign aid agency.

The reviewers examined some 70 cases over the past few years. Two-thirds failed to get a passing grade when examined on the project’s aim, how it was prepared, documented and lastly, followed up. The report authors also found several cases where interns had been given administrative powers.

Gunilla Carlsson, the former aid minister who was in charge of Sweden’s foreign aid operations during the time reviewed in the report, admitted on Thursday evening that her drive to make the processes of allocating and managing aid more clear had not been enough.

“I didn’t reach all the way,” Carlsson, who left her post one month ago, told the Expressen newspaper.

“As the responsible minister one has responsibility. And it was very clear to me, and I’ve said over and over again, that there were shortcomings that needed to be dealt with.”

Carlsson further commented that the different revenue streams to Sweden’s national aid work was confusing, and said she hoped that the ministry would end up handing over control to the national aid agency Sida.

“Hopefully, that process will now speed up, as we have evidence about the shortcomings that we still need to address,” Carlsson told Expressen.

Annica Sohlström, secretary general of NGO aid umbrella organization Forum Syd, reacted angrily to the report.

“It risks hollowing out the trust also in other players within the foreign aid community,” Sohlström told the TT news agency. “Especially when it turns out that at the top they don’t have a handle on money and procedures.”

Furthermore, Sohlström expressed anger that Carlsson and her ministry had put enormous pressure on Forum Syd to make its accountability structure stronger.

“Gunilla Carlsson’s mantra has been internal direction and control, that we should be able to show where every single krona goes, and to be able to show up our results,” Sohlström explained. “That makes it even more noteworthy that the foreign ministry doesn’t have a grasp on its work.”

Neither the foreign minister nor the prime minister said they were aware of the report, but both denied that internal critique had spurred on Carlsson’s exit from the ministry last month. Hillevi Engström, the former labour minister who picked up Carlsson’s portfolio when she left, said she had not read the report.

Sweden’s total development aid budget for 2013 is about 38.2 billion kronor, according to Sida, with about 18 billion kronor administered directly by the agency.

TT/The Local/at

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