For the three years I have been a journalist at Nation Publications Limited (NPL), I have read and written wide and vast about Goodall Gondwe, our Finance Minister.
But even before that, as a student and an admirer, I had drunk deeper from his published thoughts on financial management and development planning.
I am sure, judging from the way he managed the economy during Bingu wa Mutharika’s first term, Gondwe is a figure you would want to understand.
Yet in all this, I had never met the man in person. So it was phenomenon two weeks ago when I sat down with him to discuss the matrix of the continued depreciation of the kwacha.
By then, the kwacha had already depreciated from K410 to K435 to a US dollar. Today, the kwacha is selling at K520.
Economic analysts, as expected, are interpreting the depreciation with the usual warning of tough days ahead as if we have ever lived and enjoyed better times.
The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) is already on the neck of commercial banks to adjust their bank rates—something which will bloat even further the cost of repaying small loans many of us owe these precarious financial institutions.
Pump prices, it is just a matter of days, will jump—something which will alter even worse the cost of transportation, as a result, complicating the already high cost of survival in Malawi. Koma tilimba?
In his wisdom, if really wisdom, Gondwe assured the nation to—in fact we don’t need to be told—brave the times because it is seasonal.
Well, if we are to agree with Gondwe’s assurance, then we will be saying that our economy, sometimes, lives through better seasons.
But I have got news for Gondwe: As far as I can remember, and this is from my little experience, our economy has never lived a season of joy and happiness to most Malawians. It always lives in a perpetual season of want and pain—just like where we are now.
To be honest, our economy has always been where we are since 1994. We have always had these currency shocks, high bank rates, high transport costs and our cost of living, as far as I can remember, has always been high for nearly 90 percent of Malawians—especially the middle class.
We all know—and Gondwe knows much better that our economy has always been where it is now because of its overreliance on other people’s tax-payers’ money: the donors. Yes, donor money, whether we like it or not, is other people’s tax-payers’ money and we do not have the moral authority to decide if it’s disbursed or not!
What we have not done in all these years is to use other people’s taxpayers’ money to generate our own money, manage our economy and wean off donor overreliance the way, among others, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Mauritius and Ghana have done.
Economists of repute have always argued for Malawi to invest in production, not consumption if it dreams to develop.
But if you take it from 2003 when Gondwe was Bakili Muluzi’s economic advisor; through 2005 to 2009 when he was Bingu wa Mutharika’s Finance Minister to date, how much, under his wisdom, has he pushed for government to invest in production so that we increase our forex bank and wean off donor overreliance?
If you ask me, my answer is simple: what has stood out from 2003 to date is increased destitution of Malawians which has run concurrently with heinous levels of billions being looted from public coffers by politicians and heavy investments in nonsensical projects like cement and fertiliser subsidy.
Well, I do not hate Gondwe. But I just have a feeling that time has come for, us Malawians, to rise up for our country. I feel there are some characters—not just Gondwe, they are so many—within our politics that need to step aside for the country to move forward.
I know there is too much respect for Gondwe out there as one of the country’s smartest financial brains. But I feel his smartness has done little, taken from a historical perspective, to move Malawi from these cyclic financial stalemates.