Government has said recent reports in the media that indicated that Malawi is the poorest country in the world, based on the analysis of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of several countries, have exposed the incompetence of the Malawi media to interpret economic data.
Information, Tourism and Civic Education Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa expressed Government’s disappointment last week where he said Government has since decided to train the local media in financial and economic reporting.
“We are looking at the capacity of journalists in the country on how best they are able to cover and understand issues. That information per se could not have been interpreted as Malawi being the poorest country. Time is now that we need to emphasise much in specialised writing, in particular economic reporting” said Nankhumwa.
He said the bone of contention is Malawi media’s failure to differentiate between the GDP per head in current US dollars and GDP per head in purchasing power parity.
“These issues are quite different altogether. That is why I am saying it is very imperative that as journalist we need to emphasise much in specialised writing or specialised reporting especially economic reporting,” he said.
He said his ministry is at the moment undertaking to get some scholarships which are available now and they will be contacting media houses to offer people that can undergo this kind of training.
“Failure to interpret data is a serious source of concern,” he said.
He however said as government they are not saying that Malawi is not poor but not the poorest.
Nankhumwa said in the short and medium term for government is to put up policies that will increase rural production and income.
Presidential economic advisor Collins Magalasi said members of the media have an extra responsibility saying as government they have a some sources of inspiration especially when policy development and implementation is influenced by among other things, what the public want to see done.
This fortunately or unfortunately Magalasi said relies on the biggest role of the media of informing the public rightly.
“I heard and saw what was reported as Malawi being the poorest country. I failed to understand how anybody who has an interest in the economy will report it that way,” he said.
Magalasi, who is an economist by profession, cautioned the media to be careful on how they use figures and issues of the economy because they can mislead the nation and in that way misleading the leadership.
“Measurement of poverty is a relative process and I was surprised that someone could write that they want to measure poverty using GDP,” he said.
He said the media need to answer several questions before taking this route.
In reaction to the government sentiments, Association for Business Journalists (ABJ) Deputy National Coordinator Dumbani Mzale agreed with the government officials that indeed the media did a botched up job on their reporting on the matter.
“We would look forward to ensuring that a tailor-made training for journalists do take place so that they could be able to interpret economic data,” he said.