The Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (Congoma) on Wednesday tore into the administration of President Joyce Banda, saying workers in Malawi are toiling in vain because their income does not match the cost of living.
Congoma board chairperson Voice Mhone also attacked government for implementing in full a set of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prescriptions without assessing their implications on a common Malawian and the economy at large.
Mhone, in his solidarity statement at the commemoration of the May 1 Labour Day Celebration in Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre, accused government of hastily implementing IMF prescriptions through a combined dose of 49 percent currency devaluation; floatation of the kwacha and removal of subsidies of fuels.
“The shock created by that move is too much for an average Malawian to absorb, especially where your government failed to put in place social protection policy ahead of the reforms. Up to now, there is no meaningful safety net mechanism in place to cushion them.
“No wonder, this continues to be followed by demands for higher wages, public suffering and dissatisfaction,” said Mhone amid silence from the gathering as the President took down notes.
He described Malawi’s economy as one that is heading towards its deathbed. He urged the President to seriously engage the IMF and provide mechanisms to cushion the poor or else Malawi should turn the tide on development partnership to the East such as China “where pain-inflicting conditionalities do not exist”.
The Labour Day was held under the theme ‘Malawi addressing decent work deficits through a living wage amidst social, economic and political challenges’.
President Banda described the theme as relevant and befitting the occasion because it reflected the times Malawi is passing through.
Reacting to Mhone’s remarks, the President, who was visibly emotional, said there is nothing else her government could have done on IMF prescriptions.
She said: “What else could I have done? And what else can we do now? The reason why we devalued the kwacha was to kill the black market. The kwacha is now stabilising.”
She also accused Mhone of giving contradictory information to what experts are advising government.
Banda said government is implementing the Malawi Decent Work Country Programme which seeks to address decent work deficits in all their forms, including wages.
She acknowledged that Malawi’s economy has been going through some of the toughest times in its history.
The President said her next agenda is to embark on job creation, targeting mostly the youth because they constitute the majority of the labour force and yet they face particularly serious challenges in securing employment.
And reacting to Banda’s response to Mhone’s statement, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito said it was inconsiderate and unnecessary for the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) to invite the President to the event, saying she has put more misery on the workers.
Said Kapito: “It’s unfortunate that MCTU has become political when Malawians are suffering. It did not make sense to celebrate the day with the leadership that has caused more pain and suffering on the workers due to her economic mismanagement.”
But MCTU says it was necessary to invite the President since she holds the key to solving the problems workers are facing.