For the majority of Malawians, there was not much to celebrate about in 2015. The high cost of living, persistent blackouts, water shortages, unemployment and a host of other socio-economic problems robbed them of their joy. While President Mutharika has been giving assurances that life will improve for the better, the standard of living for the majority of the people has deteriorated. There are no effective solutions to move the country out of the poverty circle. Government is still looking to donors (who have given tough conditions before they can resume aid to support the budget) instead of focusing on mobilising local resources with the help of the private sector which is not doing much to develop the country.
There is not much to be optimistic about in 2016. Between January and April Malawians should brace for “price increase madness.” This is the period when many companies increase prices of goods and services. Already Escom, with the approval of the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera), has hiked electricity tariff by 13.7 percent with effect from January 1. Other companies will also jump on the bandwagon and make Malawians dig deeper into their pockets.
Inf lat ion is likely to increase through deprecation of the kwacha. The country is entering a lean period when there is a critical shortage of foreign exchange. Unless the Reserve Bank intervenes in the foreign exchange market, inflation is likely to worsen.
Other factors are also negatively affecting government performance. Most of the public resources are consumed by the ruling elite and their close associates while expenditure is unnecessarily high. Corruption in many ministries and departments continue unabated. Recently, a journalist from a leading daily newspaper exposed corruption at the Road Traffic Directorate where officials are selling driving licenses with the help of middlemen. The journalist bought a licence for K150 000. Even with overwhelming evidence Minister of Public Works Francis Kasailahas still denied the existence of corruption in his ministry. Can government fight corruption with such an attitude from ministers? Does Kasaila know that this racket has been going on for decades?
Corruption is endemic in other departments such as Immigration Department. It is a nightmare for an applicant to get an ordinary passport within the stipulated 30 days. Applicants can wait up to six months to get their passports. Immigration officers deliberately work slowly to entice bribes from applicants. Sometimes they give all kinds of flimsy reasons for the delay. Yet they process quickly passports for those who offer them bribes. Sadly, senior officials pay a blind eye to the racket because they benefit from it.
City councils and municipalities, the centre of service delivery, are miserably failing to deliver service to the people. It is little surprising that residents are reluctant to pay city / municipal rates becausethey do not see the need. Assemblies fail to provide many service to the residents. For example, garbage remains uncollected in residential areas while markets are extremely filthy and unhealthy. Where are mayors and councillors? Where is the Minister of Local government? If government is failing to do simply things, Malawians should not hope for big things, sorry! n