Business News pages of The Nation of October 29 2012 carried a story in which International Monetary Fund (IMF) country representative Dr Ruby Randall indicated that Malawi has not performed well on the export market in the past 20 years.
We thank Randall for telling us the truth. Otherwise, such is information our leaders keep under wraps.
When I read the story, I was emotionally paralysed. It is like having a patient at the hospital and every time you visit him/her you notice that his/her health continues to deteriorate. You always live in fear that the worst will happen. I hope this is the feeling every Malawian, who is conversant with the countryâ€™s economic trends, has.
I remembered advice American sages Dale Carnegie and Dr Norman Vincent Peale gave in their books on motivation and worries.
They say when the worst situation happens the only wise thing to do is to think of how to get out of it.
If you fall into a pit, the only way out of it is upwards.
Do not whine and yell about your misfortune just try to find a solution.
This advice is relevant to a country in the depth of misery such as Malawi.
Our country has wallowed in poverty for a good part of its existence as both a British protectorate and as an independent nation.
Think and Grow Rich, by another American motivational guru Napoleon Hill, is another relevant book to Malawiâ€™s situation.
We need to reflect on the sorrowful state Malawi is and ask ourselves why we have over the years performed poorly on exports.
What has made our exports uncompetitive?
The problem we have is that we are fossilised in our thoughts. We are stuck in the old ways of doing things.
We fear revoluntionary ideas. We do not want to abandon institutions that have failed us over the years and experiment with new ones.
On several occasions, I have proposed that the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development should be headed by someone with a high status than that of ministers. This person should be supported by top notch technocrats.
Look to the Far East for models. Let us get organised for success by overhauling institutions and giving major roles to men and women who seriously studied how other countries pulled themselves from poverty to prosperity.
If we continue doing things the way we have been doing years gone by, we will remain in poverty.
As regards per capita income, Malawi was not different from Mozambique and Tanzania not so long ago, but our neighbours have made remarkable strides economically.
I was watching TV when I learnt of fabulous wealth discovered in Mozambican waters of the Indian Ocean. The news item was about gas that has been discovered in that country.
If we had a Ministry of Economic Planning and Development that is staffed by personnel who always think of ways of reviving the economy, Malawi would position itself to benefit from the prosperity of its neighbours.
We need to commit men and women who are shielded from the vicissitudes of party politics.
These should be the people who can only be removed from office if they do not perform not because there is a new president or party in office.
Progress takes place when new ideas of doing things are crystallised, resolutions made, someone appointed to implement the recommendations and a date for review is fixed.
Randall has brought to the attention of the Malawians how poorly their country is performing in the global economy. Are we to leave matters lying there? If this is not attended to, it can lead the country from stagnation to deterioration.
What government should do as a matter of urgency is to appoint consultants, a mixture of Malawians and expatriates, to identify causes of Malawiâ€™s failure on the export market.
We have learned the overall cause is uncompetitiveness of our exports. This may mean that the quality of our exports does not appeal to importers and the price we charge for our exports are too high compared with what our competitors charge. We must have facts not speculation.
Secondly, government should invite a foreign expert to come and advise us on how we may pull back our country from the brink of bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy, yes! This is inevitable if we keep on importing more and more while exporting less and less.
The late president Bingu wa Mutharika invited foreign governments to send their representative to come and see how we had achieved food security.
Let us be humble enough so as to send our technocrats to countries which have done so well in export earnings and overall development. Progress comes through learning from others.