The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has said inequality continues to rise in Malawi as evidenced by the rise in the Gini coefficient from 0.339 to 0.461 between 2005 and 2017.
Gini coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income or wealth distribution of a nation’s residents and is the most commonly used measure of inequality.
A Gini coefficient of zero expresses perfect equality, where all values are the same, while a Gini coefficient of 1 or 100 percent expresses maximal inequality among values.
In its draft Country Programme Document for Malawi, which will run from 2019 to 2023, UNDP says the share of the poorest quintile in national consumption worsened from 10.1 percent in 2005 to 5.5 percent in 2012.
Malawi is classified as a least developed country, as nearly 70 percent of its 17 million people live on less than $1.90 a day, with poverty concentrated in rural areas, where 95 percent of the poor life.
Despite being largely peaceful, Malawi ranks 170 out of 188 countries with a Human Development Index of 0.476, placing it well below the sub-Saharan average of 0.523.
According to the draft country document, gender inequality is high in Malawi, with a Gender Inequality Index of 0.614, mainly due to negative social norms and discriminatory practices, resulting in women’s low levels of representation in politics and the economy.
Responding to the latest UN data, Finance Minister, Goodall Gondwe, on Monday said the issue of inequality has always generated some heated debate not only in Malawi but even in developed countries.
He said while Capital Hill is doing its best to narrow the gap, by, among other things, using taxation and introducing poverty reduction programmes, it appears that it does not have the desired impact.
He faulted economics for not coming up with a concrete universally accepted theory for tackling the question of growing inequality.