Honourable Folks, we have entered 2015 with the saying “a hungry person is an angry person” going ding dong like a church bell in the ears of President Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM) and the other privileged folks in government.
Who expected that judges, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officers and the intelligentsia of Chancellor College to be on the forefront, throwing spanners in government’s plan to cut costs and harmonise emoluments in the public sector?
They know better than the rest of us that life cannot be the same after the revenue base of government’s recurrent expenditure has shrunk 40 percent in the aftermath of Cashgate expose when disappointed donors froze direct budgetary support.
But the ever shrinking buying power coupled with the ever rising cost of living—a miserable situation for which management gurus will apportion 80 percent of the blame on leadership failures—are so dehumanising that the slow-to-anger become a rare breed indeed.
Call it being caught between a rock and a hard place. If government puts its foot down and maintains the status quo, it may entail spending more time and energy on labour disputes than national development.
On the other hand, budging to their demand for pay-hikes of 40 percent and above just might open a floodgate of more demands in the public sector and a possible spill-over to the relatively stable private sector.
Should that happen, our already heavily indebted country (we have squandered opportunities that came with foreign debt cancellation of 2006) will sink deeper into abject poverty, worsen its already troubled relations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and all this will raise further the barrier to aid, foreign investment and our involvement in international trade.
Again, fixing the economy is 80 percent a factor of effective and not mediocre leadership. APM may not have caused all the problems we are experiencing now, but he is the one we entrusted with sovereign authority.
It’s him and his government who must inspire the people to get out of their comfort zones, get dirty, get sweaty and endure the pain that comes with the pressing of the boil to remove the puss so that the healing can start.
Taming the tempers of hungry law-abiding citizens in the Judiciary, ACB and public universities is a lot easier, in my opinion, than putting on a short-leash AK47- or panga-wielding criminals who terrorise the genteel sensibilities of good citizens as they seek to get what they want by killing, maiming and looting.
The Chinese, the folks former president Bingu wa Mutharika gave a hats-off for giving us aid with no strings attached, in December attached strings to their continued stay and investment in Malawi—security.
The Chinese even wondered why there seems to be more police officers on the road exacting fines from motorists with petty traffic offences than there are out there to quickly respond to distress calls, thwart crime and bring to book the bad guys.
Diplomatically, they have issued an ultimatum that they will divest and relocate their businesses to safer countries unless something drastic is done to curb incidents of violent crime, especially those targeting their nationals.
Probably what should worry the leadership more is that insecurity has crippled economic activity among our own rural folk who make up 85 percent of the population.
There used to be a time when well-stocked grocery shops, maize mills, furniture workshops, etc were found deep in the villages, kilometres away from trading centres. Today so many of these have closed and owners killed or maimed by armed criminals who, most of the time, manage to get away with it.
It’s a rare sight these days to see a chicken khola or grain nkhokwe outside. Even goats are kept in the same huts where people live. Many people are simply not “investing” for fear of attracting thugs. Consequently, more are stuck in abject poverty despite that they know what it takes to get out of there.
Addressing security issues that cripple rural development is key to growing the economy and reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. APM should provide leadership and address issues that hamper national development.
He should also create an atmosphere that allows citizens to exercise their creative genius in the creation of wealth and jobs without fearing the real possibility that they just might have to pay for it with their dear lives.
Unfortunately, that’s not what we’ve in the past six months. Our leadership seems eager to be doing the same things that haven’t worked for decades— bragging over buildings and roads which in fact are more like corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects for donor countries who contribute 80 percent to the development budget.
Happy New Year, honourable Folks! May 2015 be the year when His Excellency, Prof APM and his government bring us together as one and provide the inspiration we need to start in earnest fixing our democracy and the economy.