…continued from last Monday..
Work ethic. From time to time, one hears that Malawians are hardworking people but sometimes we spend too much time on leisure activities, sitting before a TV for several hours watching matches in Spain or North England does not contribute to development.
That is about weaknesses in our national character. Now we must talk about how we can be better organised for optimum development. We must have a national mission of goals and strategies. We say we want to become a middle income country; by what date and using what means? It is because we did not incorporate the time factor in what we assumed was a vision that half a century has passed without achieving the kind of progress that countries like Mauritius and those in the Far East have achieved.
We must set up permanent institutions that will give top priority to economic development. Models of such constitution in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia should be studied. People we call geniuses started by borrowing other people ideas, why should we not.
In the early 1960’s, Britain was going through difficult experiences economically; she had even to appeal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance. As part of reorganisation, the government set up the Department of Economic Affairs. It was at that time President Banda also set up short-lived Ministry of Economic Affairs. Presumably, he was inspired by the British example.
Whatever we may call it, the institution must have permanent roots and must not be at the mercy of the spoils system in making staff appointments. Though governments are not supposed to own companies, there must be a state agency that will see that the private sector is doing its best.
We must make up our minds that Malawi is going to be a developmental State, that act through designated private organisations. Again, our models should be the in the Far East, Japan and Tigers.
Malawi needs active “Think tanks” bodies which conduct economic research, produce ideas and issue pamphlets. Civils servants are too busy with routine work to have time for originating ideas, the Ministry of Economic Affairs or whatever it is called will examine these ideas. It is ideas that move the world provided there are people who can implement them; some commentators have observed that though the public sector in Japan is smaller than in some western countries, there is more interaction between the state and the private sector. This is something to scrutinise.
While we must look to the State for overall leadership and inductive planning, we must not surrender our individuality to the state. Those things we can do ourselves as individuals or societies must do. In the British or American social structure, we come across autonomous or semi-autonomous bodies which contributed to scientific or other form of development. We read of Royal Academy of science and arts, geographical societies, missionary societies and think tanks. The initiative in forming these bodies was private; the state came in later to support.
Government priorities do not always match or coincide with individual or communal priorities. What people can do for themselves, they must do. Political parties like the Nyasaland African Congress and the Malawi Congress party which brought us independence were not sponsored by any government official but ordinary people most of them with very little money in their pockets.
The accelerated development that South Korea, Taiwan, Mainland China underwent were procedures by reforms, very drastic ones. That is what we should do. The reforms should start at the top and end at the tap; the constitutions reforms that were drafted in the years 2007 and 2008 ought to be implemented. It is because some people are sitting on them that we experience things like the cashgate and incompetence in the public services and so on.
Those who belong to dominant regions or ethnic groups prefer the status quo which ensures them victory and top position.
After gaining independence, major groups in Uganda, such as the Baganda, Banyoro, Busoga and Achole put up leaders who succeeded only in turning Uganda from the Pearl of Africa to Hobbesian chaos where life was solitary nasty, brutal and short. Then on the scene arrives Yoweri Museveni from a minority tribe called Himu. Uganda has not only stabilised but achieved tremendous progress. Makerere University, according to The Economist, has become the best in Africa between Sahara and South Africa.
When in Nigeria the northerners were monopolising regimes, nothing worked , coup d’états were frequent, but no progress was achieved when Obasanjo from the Yoruba tribe in the south took over Nigerians economy became the largest in Africa.
In Malawi, there is need for merit to triumph over mediocrity. Nobody should be presented from holding a position commensurate with his or her abilities just because of tribal, regional or religion, when this condition prevails development and stability will prevail. Privileges and discrimination is the crucible of the civil wars we reads and hear about in other countries. n