Hon. Folks, the APM government doesn’t get it, does it? Imagine, having a record lean Cabinet of 20 to cater for all the 17 million Malawians then hiring a legion of 15 advisors for only one person, the President!
When the media pointed out the costly anomaly, Information minister Jappie Mhango responded with a six-page rebuttal, arguing that the advisors are a huge saving since they are paid much less than the ministers, really? Whose money?
When VAT (value added tax) is added to PAYE (pay as you earn), it’s clear that government takes away nearly 50 percent of our miserable monthly earnings.
Again, due to its failed economic policy—failing to cushion the heavily devalued and floated kwacha with exports and import substitutes—we live to experience the horror of watching the daily erosion in value of whatever miserable change is left in our pockets.
Poverty keeps on gnawing at the number of Malawian taxpayers to took pride in fending for themselves—go to private hospitals, send their children to private schools, buy their own food, buy their own fertilisers and pay for their own home security.
You just have to monitor the frequency banks put adverts in the press, inviting sales by tender of reclaimed properties and vehicles to realise how far these economic hardships are robbing good and hardworking Malawians of their hope and dignity.
In such hard economic times of loss and deprivation, demand for public goods and services inevitably increases even if government itself has to adopt austerity measures, cutting costs in the process. In times such as now, focus is trained on government priorities.
Which is why, no amount of paint-brushing will obscure the goofy thinking behind having 15 of the so-called presidential advisors on an already troubled government payroll, some with questionable credentials, lacking in the think-tank knowledge and discernment in the areas they are recruited to advise the President on. Any wonder APM seems lost in the maze?
The advice APM needs right now—and Jappie Mhango and his colleagues in Cabinet are better positioned to drum it home—is that, it’s wrong, very wrong indeed, for him to appoint Bright Malopa as advisor and later dump him at Macra.
It’s also wrong for APM to distract Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba, a well-qualified and highly experienced medical doctor, from the more useful job of saving lives in hospital and turn him into a spin-doctor. There are already too many in that camp!
APM also needs to be advised that Macra’s executive management and directors have the capacity to identify genuine gaps in the organisation and fill them with the right people with suitable qualifications, skills and attributes.
To redeploy political appointee Malopa at Macra—an age-old culture which has yielded failure and politicisation of the public sector—is tantamount to political interference in the running of statutory bodies. Trust me, Malopa is bright enough to choose for himself a career to pursue.
Rather than defend the indefensible, Mhango should advise APM that having too many advisors runs counter to the spirit of frugality inherent in public service reforms and is done at the expense of patients in public hospitals where lack drugs, meals and dialysis machines is rampant. It’s also done at the expense of hungry voters who’re scrambling for maize husks and Zambian flour brought in illegally as government is failing to make available enough maize on the market to meet the ever growing demand.
Tell the President, there shouldn’t be too many advisors because we are poor. Africa Report of Dec. 2015 – Jan. 2016, shows we have the lowest GDP per capita ($352) in the entire Sadc region and, in Africa as a whole; only Burundi and Central African Republic (there’s no reliable data on the failed state of Somalia) are worse off.
Tell the President no to extravagance because of the three African countries that depend on tobacco as the number one cash crop—Malawi, Zimbabwe and Tanzania—Malawi has the least alternative foreign exchange earners, with no forex from minerals after Kayelekera and no forex from a grossly underdeveloped tourism industry.
After Paladin’s short-stay at Kayelekera, the only major foreign direct investment we’ve attracted, albeit by default, is from Vale as they were constructing the Sena rail-line connecting the coal-rich western part with the eastern part of Mozambique.
But even with that investment, only Lesotho and Swaziland in the entire Sadc attracted less FDI inflows than Malawi in 2014. Among the 54 countries in Africa, such an FDI windfall of $ 130 million only helped us be better off than 10 other countries.
If all this does not give APM an impetus to beat President John Magufuli of Tanzania on frugality, then we have a reason to get worried indeed.n