Thank God that MalawiansÃ¢â‚¬â€poorer, angrier and more hopeless than they were at the beginning of 2011Ã¢â‚¬â€are seeing the back of the most torturous year in a decade. On the other hand, the ruling elite have never been richer, happier and more hopeful of their future than they were in January.
That is Malawi for you, a country of two worlds, one in which fat politicians and bureaucrats tell the poor to tighten their already inflexible belts while the fat cats further loosen theirsÃ¢â‚¬â€the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do message that the holidaying and partying austerity-in-chief has been sending to us.
Unfortunately, the outlook in 2012 could make 2011 look like the year of plenty (never mind the near permanent shortages of fuel, water, electricity, sexÃ¢â‚¬â€I hear people are queuing for their turnsÃ¢â‚¬â€foreign currency, beer, beverages and, yes, sound, selfless, compassionate and reliable leadership).
I mean, when a fairly civilised country, with a functioning currency and which enjoys trade with the rest of the world starts considering returning to the stone age by exposing a strategic export to baterÃ¢â‚¬â€exchanging goods you do not need (apparently tobacco) with those that you need (fuel), then you know that going back to dictatorship should be the least of your worries.
You should be more concerned about returning to early humansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ way of livingÃ¢â‚¬â€sleeping in caves, walking around naked except for a leaf covering the visible reproductive parts of the anatomy, carrying a bow and an arrow to hunt enough game for the family and, hopefully, leaving some to exchange with the beads or grain that neighours may have in abundance.
Now, that is a serious reversal of fortunes for a country that last year allegedly reached the pinnacle of development as depicted by the full sun in the middle of red, black and green stripes.
I am not making up the bater idea. Out of depth and out of options, Minister of Energy, Natural Resources and Environment, Goodall GondweÃ¢â‚¬â€arguably the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s most successful Finance MinisterÃ¢â‚¬â€a few weeks ago said government is considering a tobacco for fuel programme that will see Malawi exporting the leaf, but instead of earning hard currency, we will mostly get fuel.
How Gondwe and his team plan to pull this bater strategy off is beyond my pay grade. For a start, annual tobacco earnings ($291 million this year) are well below the fuel import bill ($370 million in 2011).
Does this mean that all 60 percent of our export proceeds that tobacco brings will be for fuel? Is the cursed liquid the only priority? What about drugs, farm inputs, raw materials and other imports that support all the sectors of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s economy?
How will such a move affect the local financial system which will be scrambling for the remaining 40 percent, most of which is uncertain as it comes from donors who suspended aid after government called them names, breached protocols and agreements; kicked their backsides all the way to the airport with a smirk?
Every time senior ruling politicians open their mouths, they only manage to confirm that Malawi is quickly turning into a banana republic.
Talking about banana republics, last week, the Western world was shocked at the news that Kim Jong-il, the North Korea ruler, had died at 69. The tightly controlled North Korea media beamed images of that countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s citizens crying as hard as they could, grieving for their pygmy tyrant. Whether those were tears of joy, sadness or part of their culture, is hard to tell.
The West are panicking because while they wanted Kim dead, he has departed too soonÃ¢â‚¬â€before achieving a smooth transition of power to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, 28. While the official North Korea news agency is already calling the younger Kim “the great successor to the revolutionary cause,” there is no guarantee that the transfer of power will be easy considering that the military have not fully endorsed the young man and the political establishment thinks he is too inexperienced to exercise power as effectively as his father did.
If a power grab ensues, North Korea, a holder of nuclear weapons, could collapse, leaving the weapons exposed to terrorist raids. An unstable North Korea not only threatens its prosperous cousin, South Korea, a US ally but also the whole of the Korean Peninsula.
China, North KoreaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s other rich neighbour and godfather with whom it continued to trade even after sanctions, could also be affected by emigrants from the failed State and other economic and security problems; hence, the need for the two great powersÃ¢â‚¬â€the US and ChinaÃ¢â‚¬â€to bury their ideological differences and help save North Korea from imploding. It will be good for the world.
Have a joyous Christmas tomorrow.