As Malawians celebrated 57 years of independence on July 6, and took stock of what independence has meant for them, the temptation was too strong not to also assess how the Tonse Alliance administration has been running affairs of the government.
In their assessment, perhaps not surprising, all regimes since independence have taken the flak from social commentators that there is not much they have done to write home about in the period Malawi has been a sovereign State. The narrative is that all the five governments, including the Tonse administration which has only been in power for a year, have not lifted Malawians out of the poverty trap. The cost of living has been high. Corruption has been entrenched.
On the other hand, the Tonse Alliance, which charmed voters with the promise “to clear the rubble”, has been too slow for anybody’s liking, and comfort, in its maiden year to lay the foundation blocks for the Canaan it promised.
I cannot agree more with some of the social commentators on what all the successive administrations have failed to achieve in the 57- year-long relay race of independence. Truth be said, poverty is still rampant in both rural and urban settings.
The Southern African Regional Poverty Network (Sarpn), gives insight to the widespread poverty among Malawians and defines poverty: “as a state of continuous deprivation or a lack of the basics of life.”
With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of only $1 200, Malawi ranks among the 10 poorest countries in the world. The poverty rate in 2018 stood at 52 percent, according to that year’s integrated household report.
A few more common pertinent facts illuminate the poverty that Malawians face on a daily basis. According to the World Bank, Malawians live on $1.90 per day. Fewer than one-in-10 Malawians have access to electricity. Over 90 000 individuals live with HIV And Aids. Poor children are more likely to drop out of school before they reach Standard 5, according to the Sarpn. A majority of the poor reside in rural areas, where there are limited economic activities and subsistence agriculture is the main income, according to Sarpn. These statistics reflect badly on all the previous regimes which had adequate time to make an impact on lives after being in power for not less than five years, except the JB administration which was at the helm for two years.
Unfortunately, in their anger and frustration, Malawians paint all the administrations with the same brush as having failed them.
People are entitled to point out perceived weaknesses in the Tonse Alliance administration. Agreed, this administration has had a stuttering start on some of its flagship programmes and you cannot tell whether it is going forward or backward in other projects. There is also no question that the administration has been slow to crack the whip on some fiscal malfeasance haunting it, especially regarding the abstraction of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 pandemic funds. To say that government has been massaging the devil in the manner it has handled the defalcation, is an understatement.
We all agree, government displayed great deficiency in both tact and dynamism in dealing with the teachers’ strike which paralysed the education sector for over three months. The administration has also not moved with much speed to prosecute corruption-related cases despite the swift moves it made to arrest some suspects during its early days in office.
Be that as it may, it is too early to talk about Tonse’s failures in the same breath as the others before it. Give Tonse time to implement its policies. The country has already started reaping the fruits of some of its short-term programmes such as the Affordable Input Programme aimed at improving household food security and poverty reduction.
The red flag on corruption on Malawi by Transparency International (TI) at best reveals the Democratic Progressive Party administration’s dark side during its last days in office. President Lazarus Chakwera was sworn-in on June 28 last year. The first Tonse Alliance administration Cabinet was sworn-in on July 9.
The new government presented its first substantive national budget in September 2020. This means, in earnest, the Tonse Alliance administration started implementing its programmes, in the last-quarter of 2020.
In all this hullaballoo, Tonse Alliance leadership should at best take note of what people are faulting them on and do the needful. A stitch in time saves nine.