When a large corporation is facing unusual challenges, a new chief executive officer is hired to save the sinking ship.
The new CEO usually seeks answers to three or four questions:
(a) What is the present position of the corporation?
This question requires spelling out assets and liabilities, and the companyâ€™s position on the market. In short, a compendium of its problems must be crystallised.
(b) Where should the corporation be?
Perhaps it should regain market leadership or it should be making so much profit per annum. If it is in the red, it should be in the black.
(c) By what means and methods shall the company attain that position?
It may introduce new products on the market or rework on the old ones. It may sell debentures and other securities to raise more capital. It may also borrow from the capital market.
(d) By what date? It is said open-ended planning is a contradiction of some sort. If you plan to revive a company, you must set the time-frame. Only then can you tell if you are making progress towards the stated goal.
Those in charge of managing the Malawi economy would do well to adopt the same schemata.
To question where is the Malawi economy at present, we say it is burdened by double digit inflation and interest rates, raging famine in most parts of the country, widespread unemployment though difficult to quantify due to the dual nature of the economy, shortages of foreign reserves and essential commodities such as oil, fertiliser, capital goods.
(e) Where should Malawiâ€™s economy be?
It should once more be growing at the rate of, at least, six percent of gross domestic product (GDP), it should enjoy food security, export boom and ample forex reserves.
By what means or method should we attain these goals?
By identifying the strategic sector of the economy and concentrate resources on those areas. Though secondary and tertiary sectors are playing palpable roles, agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy.
An agricultural revolution could give birth to an industrial revolution.
It is when an economy such as ours is sickly that an agricultural policy must be framed up. If one is already in place, then it must be revisited. The first thing to do is to discuss and agree on what needs to be done.
It must be started once more that Malawi should attain food security. For the first four or five years of Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s administration, there was food self-sufficiency. We must begin by finding out what took us back to food deficiency.
While some people say crop failure in the previous season was caused by insufficient moisture in the soil other than pundits of fertilisers. If so, we must do better on this account.
As to what ought to be done, we could say:
â€”There must be adequate food for all. With plenty of fertile land, why should we be importing food?
â€”There must be extra food every year for food and exports.
â€”The food must be cheap food for the lowest paid members of society.
â€”Apart from maize as staple food, other food types should be encouraged both to provide variety in diet and to rely on when maize production has fallen short of targets.
â€”Farmers should be guaranteed adequate and steady incomes.
To attain food security and surpluses, modern technology must be introduced. But in so doing, we must be careful not to depopulate the rural population. Urban centres are not ready to accommodate influxes of the rural masses.
Extra production must be achieved through peasant farmers rather than capitalism. Though farmers are usually conservative and too slow to adopt modern technologies we must be patient with educating the smallholder farmers.
There in the rural centres they have a home of their own. When their children who go to seek work abroad decide to return, they have a home to receive them. This is an element of social stability.
The huge unemployment that exists in Malawi is not exploding into violence because it is in the form of underemployment.
In other words, the social consequences of trying to achieve higher levels of agricultural production should be foreseen and forestalled.