â€œNow is the time to change our economic situation by making decisions which are relevant and plausible for the people of Malawi,â€ said President Joyce Banda recently in New York.
One relevant and plausible decision that we must make, in my view, has to do with our energy sector.
It is undisputable that reliable energy is critical to the socioeconomic development of any country.
This is why if we are really serious about changing our fortunes as a country, we need to do something to our energy policy.
The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) acknowledges the need to improve our energy sector for us to achieve the other development goals.
Unless certain policy elements change, chances are high that we will miss out on some MGDS goals.
We all know that Escom has no capacity to support Malawiâ€™s economic and human development needs.
According to the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), currently only 8 percent of the Malawian population is connected to the national grid out of which only 1 percent is rural.
It is worrying, therefore, that despite such a low connectivity, Escom is still unable to serve us well.
What is more worrisome is that government seems to be protecting Escom from competition, making the power utility to enjoy undeserved monopoly.
With Escom around, we are unlikely to achieve any meaningful development. Something has to be done to change the energy policy and remove things that discourage other companies from investing in the countryâ€™s energy sector.
Can government really justify its protectionism policy with Escomâ€™s inefficiencies?
It is surprising government continues to protect such an inefficient entity which is partly to blame for wanton cutting down of trees and the countryâ€™s economic underperformance.
Experts put at K62 billion the loss the economy incurs due to blackouts. This is about 15 percent of the current national budget.
Hard as it may sound, especially when we consider it in respect to the size of our economy.
Frequent blackouts are responsible for the massive plunder of the countryâ€™s natural resources mostly forests.
According to Malawiâ€™s annual economic report (2008), household firewood and charcoal consumption stood at 7.5 million tonnes per annum.
This, according to the report, has resulted in destruction of between 50 000 and 75 000 hectares of natural forests.
In conclusion, it is worth to note that as we are, any decision we make on energy, can determine Malawiâ€™s future. Therefore those responsible for drafting the countryâ€™s energy policy must take heed of the Presidentâ€™s call and make relevant and plausible decisions for the benefit of all Malawians.