Hon Folks, every five years Malawians go to the polls to elect a new president and their member of Parliament. Guiding that choice is one cherished take-home civic education message: vote for people who are development-conscience.
Of course, that’s the ideal. In reality, many Malawians vote along tribal or regional lines. But by and by, chitukuko (development) messages are gaining currency.
A case in point is the outcome of the 2009 elections. DPP, with the South as its stronghold, pulled off a major upset in MCP’s Central and UDF’s Eastern regional strongholds. The Northern Region too gave Bingu wa Mutharika and his DPP overwhelming support.
Reason: the economy. On Bingu’s watch (2004-2009), economic growth averaged 7.5 percent and somehow Malawi transformed from a hitherto basket case to a bread basket. Malawi’s success in food security was the envy of Africa. Besides, Bingu had a sweet tooth for infrastructural development, particularly roads.
Indeed, elected leaders seem to realise that banking on tribal vote alone is like standing on quick sand. Chitukuko matters. There was a time when DPP tried hard to sell itself as a party of chitukuko. It bought newspaper pages, listing its acclaimed accomplishments first under Bingu then linking them up to pledges and accomplishments under APM.
The adverts depicted milestones such as the Bingu Stadium and Parliament Building in Lilongwe as well as Malawi University of Science and Technology in Thyolo. Included was also a carefully paint-brushed portrait of APM, apparently to drive home the message that all DPP government’s milestones in the post-Bingu era are attributed to APM.
The thinking has always been the same since the days of Kamuzu. But hold it: should APM, or any of his predecessors, really get the credit for chitukuko happening on their watch in Malawi?
The just-ended mid-year budget review session has shown that whether it’s APM, Kamlepo Kalua, Manganya or even Backbencher at the helm, chitukuko depends on donors, not the President or the party in government.
In the K1.14 trillion 2016/17 budget, only about 13 percent of the domestic revenue was allocated to the development budget. The rest-nearly 90 percent-was to meet recurrent expenses in which priority is on the opulence of the Presidency and appeasing disgruntled public sector workers who get larger-than-economy pay hikes by threats and strikes, not on merit.
This year, governance institutions such the Anti-Corruption Bureau and Malawi Human Rights Commission and other equally important bodies such the Malawi Electoral Commission and the Legal Aid Bureau will feed on straw as there isn’t much left after State Residences and entitlements have had their allocations.
Only 10 percent of our tax money is invested in the building of a better Malawi for our children.
When Kamuzu was at the helm, the pattern was the same; donors took up 80 percent of the development budget and the remaining 20 percent was locally paid for in kind, asking people to contribute labour and locally available materials to chitukuko projects in their respective areas.
Bakili Muluzi saw that as exploitation and gross violation of human rights. He killed the self-help spirit and his successors weren’t any wiser.
But APM has gone one better: while touting our aid woes after cashgate as proof that we are on course to economic emancipation, he has pushed almost 90 percent of the development budget to the same donors we are striving to walk out on.
Will they play ball? In this year’s budget, grants alone amounted to K103 billion. But as Parliament reconvened for Mid-Year Budget Review, only K23 billion has been given, forcing Gondwe to reduce expenditure by K20 billion.
Is there much to come before the end of the fiscal year in three months time? We shall hear from Gondwe in due course. What is clear for now is that if aid isn’t forthcoming, domestic revenue won’t be allocated to, chitukuko, either.