Malawi President Joyce Banda is becoming unpopular because her government’s one year performance on the microeconomic level is creating simmering anger in the voters, commentators have observed.
Dr Henry Chingaipe, an expert in governance and development, speaking in an interview on the sidelines of a public debate that analysed Banda’s one year in office organised by Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) in Malawi’s capital in Lilongwe, said.
“It is worth noting that on a large-scale, the President has done well on high level needs, thus macro level. However, cash poverty has become worse since Banda took over the reins of power. As such, she has increasingly become unpopular among people at the grass roots.”
Ironically, Banda, who ascended to the presidency in April 2012 in line with constitutional order after the death of Bingu wa Mutharika, has touted herself as taking Malawi to economic prosperity.
She mentions among her achievements, steady availability of foreign exchange in authorised dealer banks, fuel in filling stations and drugs in hospitals, which were scarce during her predecessor’s rule.
One month after her rise to power, Banda, who was hitherto Mutharika’s estranged vice-president sidelined from all State functions and expelled from the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), also devalued the kwacha by 49 percent and subsequently floated it. She also adopted automatic pricing mechanism for fuel.
But Chingaipe said government needs to find an intelligent way of cushioning the adverse effects of devaluation as people are not happy.
He said: “Many of them [the people] are poorer than they were before April 2012. The future is not optimistic in the short-term as fuel prices will continue to go up, meaning a continued rise in food prices.
“Stabilising the kwacha holds the key to stabilising the economy. But I do not know how government can achieve that knowing fully that there is not enough of forex being generated from the ongoing tobacco sales.”
Chingaipe’s sentiments were echoed by Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national secretary Chris Chisoni.
“The ever increasing prices of commodities are creating anger and animosity among the electorate. This is evident from the feedback we have been getting from these people as an organisation that aims at advocating people’s consciences.
“Something ought to be done urgently and I think having an effective communication strategy which will give people room to understand decisions taken by government and why can help,” he said.
In reaction, Malawi’s Minister of Information and Civic Education Moses Kunkuyu joined People’s Party (PP) supporters who attended the debate in praising Banda for her “visionary leadership” in her first year in office.
Said Kunkuyu: “We had to devalue the kwacha for we knew the country will benefit in the short-term. It might be tough now, but it will soon be over. There are several initiatives government is undertaking to make sure everything is in order, one of them being the economic recovery plan.”