I get really worried when President Peter Mutharika tells the nation he is clueless why the economy is not picking up. With the whole government machinery at his disposal and an army of advisors at his doorsteps, the President should be the last person to plead or feign ignorance about what is wrong with the economy.
So, when the President told the Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) conference in Mangochi last Thursday that he has no idea why the country’s economy is in a mess, several questions run through my mind. One was: is the President on top of things as he should be in running the affairs of this country? To start with, that statement was a big indictment on his economic advisors. What are they there for?
Then I remembered what one official at State House said the other week that most senior appointments in the public service are not made by the President, a statement which was vehemently refuted by Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education, and the government spokesperson, Jappie Mhango. The presidential aide also said government intends to buy a presidential jet when the economy improves. This, too, was refuted by Mhango. But I can guarantee the State House official did not cook up any of those statements to Times TV. He was only regurgitating what he had been told by his bosses and what he has observed. He only burnt his fingers because he did not know how to manage that information he had got from his privileged position.
The other was that if the President has no clue as to why the economy is in not picking up, would he be in a position to know which button to press to fix it? But then I remembered I could invoke my unfettered freedom to express my views on anything as long as I don’t overstep my limit.
In my last entry I gave a short list of some of the ‘to-do’ things for the President to begin to inspire confidence among the people. There is a litany of other woes he urgently needs to fix. One is the monkey tricks government is playing to delay employing nurses by first inviting them for interviews. Are these not health cadres the Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi has certified to be professionally well qualified to do the job they were trained for?
On what the President ought to do on the economy, I will not re-invent the wheel but merely refer him to one statement that one of his key advisors—the Reserve Bank Governor (RBM), Mr Charles Chuka—said at the opening of this year’s financial literacy week. Yes, one of the President’s key advisors on the economy is the RBM governor. Others are the Finance Minister and his team at the Treasury and Economic Planning Department. The President can summon any of these people at the press of a button and get all the advice he needs on any aspect of the economy, unless he is telling the nation he does not trust any of them.
The RBM governor minced no words about what needs to be done to salvage the economy starting with government itself. Stop overspending!
The other is the need to get back donors. They will, however, not return unless Malawi fulfils its part of the deal. One of them is expediting the conclusion of a forensic audit on the K577 billion looted between 2009 and 2014 which PricewaterhouseCoopers. The earlier ‘Cashgate’ forensic audit report only concentrated on the six months of 2013. As long as there is procrastination in removing the rot in government, we could as well forget about anyone putting their money in our leaking bucket. As for the tight situation government finds itself in right now, this is self-inflicted, because it is fully aware of what it ought to do in order to unlock the aid tap.
Government should avoid dithering on crucial issues affecting people’s lives. Right now government needs US$105 million as the President said in his opening of the 46th Session of Parliament, to feed the 2.8 million food-insecure people. Where will government get all this money if not from its well-wishers who are more than ready to help as long as it (government) does the needful? n