It is a well known fact that someone can have good ideas but if they have no money, no one listens to them. This mindset is not suitable for running a government. Everyone is aware that just like in other countries, in Malawi too, government is voted into power, not just by the few rich people but the majority poor. It is these poor people who are promised to be listened to in exchange of their votes. Unfortunately, the reality is far from the promises. The Government of Malawi seems to have no time to listen to anybody. Had leadership been listening and taking action, a lot of the country’s problems would have been lessened.
For more than 20 years, people have been complaining about the selective farm input subsidy handouts which have proved to be not helpful at all. Unfortunately, the government would have none of it. Instead, the subsidy continues and each time around, food shortages get worse. There are many more examples which show that the government is not listening. Just imagine, for years Malawians have been and still are asking government to pass the Access to Information (ATI) bill.
At some point during the last sitting of Parliament President Peter Mutharika promised to get the bill passed as soon as possible. This was not to be. The bill was withdrawn with excuses that it had some clauses which need polishing up. Then the donors came into the picture and made the passing of the bill as a conditionality for some expected aid release. Without doubt this is what has forced government to once again seriously look at the bill.
Meanwhile, it goes without saying that if the government has to wait for some conditionalities, which include ultimatums, before it acts on important national issues, it must be known that such style of running government is discrediting and demeaning to the entire leadership. President Peter Mutharika knows about this very well. This is why he always says he does not want any ultimatums. But what the President might be forgetting is that ultimatums are a way of forcing him to learn to listen to what the people of Malawi are saying.
Time and again Malawians have been complaining about the extravagance within the government circles, which goes on unabated. Obviously, this is what has contributed to poverty in Malawi. The extravagance, coupled with high level of corruption, have made life unbearable. Since the government is impervious to ordinary people’s voices, the international community, especially those countries that help Malawi, come in with some advice at every opportunity. Usually, President Peter Mutharika and his government are urged to curb wastage of resources and stop extravagance by putting up strong austerity measures. Their argument is that whatever help Malawi is given is for the people to benefit. In case the DPP-led government does not know, such elementary advice stated here is just as demeaning as being given altimatums.
The government will continue to be ridiculed if it is by choice not to listen to people or to be defensive even when there is an obvious mistake. It is embarrassing to hear a foreign government say Malawi must stop wastage of resources. This is a simple internal matter which can easily be sorted out if there can be a listening government.
Malawians might be poor but they can still think and contribute good ideas. Therefore the State President and his government must learn to listen to people. n