Week in and out we are transacting. Prices go up, currencies also do their thing. The usual appreciation or deprecation and there are many endless explanations. I would say everyone is right in their own way. After all each one of us has an opinion. Speculators have cheekily adjusted themselves but it is difficult to identify a speculator. We could all be.
Currencies, like ours do not listen because they are just a medium of exchange. In the mythical world they do though, and perhaps laugh at us.
In our mind, it is stubborn, and to say the least, a very ruthless child. After the tobacco season ends, it loses value and the currency gods jump in. We get schooled. It is a similar pattern every year. So, when is judgment day? Things will have changed.
If our currency had a voice, or indeed, if it were a human being of some kind, no matter how many spouses it had, or religion it belonged to, it would give an interesting piece of opinion. Indeed if it had a voice that is difficult at the moment because many individuals speak for it, there is more we could know about its behaviour and lifestyle.
But that day will come sooner than later, but I can provide some of the interesting facts I believe the currency would give out. I believe it will be a public lecture where all those that have had an opinion will converge to observe and be part of the reality of natural justice. That is, for the Malawi kwacha to give its side of the story. It has never so far.
I believe a currency will give a basic lesson in economics that most of us have had in our lives, or at some point during school days, even at “Google University or the Wikipedia Polytechnic”. It will go like money is a medium of exchange and my price, the exchange rate, is dependent on the demand of goods produced by my Malawian parents to be sold across the border. If my Malawian parents do not produce the right kinds of goods needed across the border, I will become cheap and lose value.
This piece of opinion will take an even sharper twist. Flipping through its notes, I envisage a sleek jab at all of us that have spoken on its behalf. Its narration of our work ethic, corruption and the short-term planning will be soothing. The notion that we can live for today and simply type “Amen” and grow its strength against its competitors, are likely to come out.
The line will continue, and may take a turn to explain that we cannot grow it because there are better options across the border. That is, owners of capital who are looking for a good return and opting away because some bureaucrat did not sign the necessary paperwork. Call it seconds to disaster, but like any other infection, there are many stages to a full brown disease. The Zimbabwe dollar did not die with a single shot to the head.
I reckon currencies, if they indeed spoke for themselves, their story would be akin to raising a child using friends’ resources. That a donor will pour in resources because house door has some miracle trees that uncontrollably breed money.
But fatigue has crept in and yes it can cost respect. Who wants to be adopted forever after all? Situations change. There hidden prices in foreign lunch to the extent that there is no difference in the hedonistic calculus of the western or eastern benefactor. Both are here for business, exploit our resources and always put us in a position of weakness. That would be a serious issue that a currency would actually drive home.
Whether currencies really speak, but if the kwacha really turned up to this show, it would applaud smallholder tobacco farmers. I mean those tobacco growing peasants that have the worst quality of life, living in squalor and lacking basic amenities and carrying hopes of a nation of 13 million people to bring dollars that benefit a few capitalists to run their extravagant errands. The kwacha would elucidate that these are the ones that try to make it strong but it is not too much work. Others have to step in.
After the currency rumbles and mumblings, I have no doubt about its likely concluding punch lines. It will be like, do not bother having an opinion on how I behave against the dollar or the rand. It is so predictable. The punch line will take a jig at the predictability of our thinking and our lack of putting into practice the diversification drive for our exports despite singing about it for decades. Tobacco revenues have continued to dwindle over the last 10 years yet no practical steps have been undertaken to provide an enabling environment where export led growth. n