Malawi: IMF Country Report No. 14/37
This paper focuses on Malawi’s Third and Fourth Reviews Under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) Arrangement. Donors have suspended some aid disbursements to Malawi in response to a scandal involving the theft of public funds. Recovery is under way in many sectors of the economy, facilitated by increased availability of foreign exchange. Performance in relation to quantitative targets for the third ECF review was good, but weakened for the fourth review. There was significant fiscal slippage (excessive domestic borrowing) during July-September 2013. The IMF Staff supports the authorities’ requests for waivers based on corrective actions and policy commitments.
Donors have suspended some aid disbursements to Malawi in response to a scandal involving the theft of public funds. A group of public servants exploited weaknesses in the control environment of the government’s Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) to make fraudulent payments to several entities that had not provided any goods or services to the government. The authorities are implementing an Action Plan of remedial measures to prevent the recurrence of the fraud. Key elements of the action plan include strengthening security and management of IFMIS, a forensic audit, and identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators of the fraud.
Recovery is underway in many sectors of the economy, facilitated by increased availability of foreign exchange. This reflects the impact of policy reforms, including a strong response to exchange rate adjustment from the tobacco sector and re-established external credit lines. Inflation is falling, although more slowly than programmed.
Performance in relation to quantitative targets for the third ECF review (March test date) was good, but weakened for the fourth review (September test date). There was significant fiscal slippage (excessive domestic borrowing) during July-September 2013. This constrained the room for substituting domestic borrowing for the shortfall in aid flows. There has been progress in implementing structural benchmarks, but at a slower pace than programmed.
Discussions focused on managing the fall-out from the fiscal scandal and policies to reverse the fiscal slippage and lower inflation. A substantial decrease in aid receipts for the remainder of the fiscal year necessitated some reprioritization of spending plans as well as expenditure cuts. Fiscal and monetary policy need to be tightened to lower inflation pressures and safeguard international reserves.
Staff supports the authorities’ requests for waivers based on corrective actions and policy commitments. The authorities are implementing strong corrective actions to address the fraud and fiscal slippage, including several prior actions, and have also strengthened external debt management to ensure that they observe their commitment not to contract nonconcessional external debt. Staff further supports the requests for extension of the arrangement, rephasing of disbursements (including a halving of the disbursements originally associated with the third and fourth reviews and applying the balance to an additional review) and modifications of performance criteria.