British High Commissioner Michael Nevinâ€™s hints to Malawians and their government as reported in The Nation of September 27 2012 are most, most welcome if I am to imitate former president the late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Bandaâ€™s way of emphasising his joy.
What Nevin said was by no means surprising. A number of people who have been commenting on the economic situation in Malawi have been saying just as much. But little attention has been given to such people. The popular language is that of bashing President Joyce Banda, her Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) and government for shielding the people from the effects of devaluation.
One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin said: â€œThe way to wealth, if you desire it, is made up of two words: Industry and frugality.â€
By industry, he meant hard working and by frugality, he implied living economically, not wasting what you earn.
Franklinâ€™s advice matters to us both as individuals and a nation. Turning an economy around entails working extra hard and spending less than one earns.
Both as individuals and as a nation, we have to live a disciplined life. A person, who does not live a disciplined life, will have others disciplining it for him. A nation that does not conduct its affairs with discipline will be disciplined by other nations.
The Malawi Economic Recovery Plan (Merp) will become a success if Franklinâ€™s industry and frugality are put into practice.
Occasions when labour strikes become necessary should be reduced. There is little wealth in the Malawi economy to deserve hostility between employers and employees. To the contrary, what we need is cooperation for the economy to grow. A profitable firm can declare dividends, raise salaries and offer bonuses. A fast growing economy can similarly raise the compensations of public servants.
Even if you produce and earn a lot, but you are not careful about the costs, you will experience the disappointment of a man who tries to fill a porous basket with water.
What goes in from one direction, goes out from the opposite direction. Frugality should first be demonstrated in the highest echelons of our society.
People have complained that President Banda is going on too many journeys both at home and abroad. Of course, not all the journeys are unnecessary and not all the criticisms are fair.
When three decades ago I walked out of the civil service to engage in private business, I consulted a friend of mine, Aubrey Kachingwe, on how I would sail through uncharted sea. Speaking in Swahiri he said kama hutumie, hupate, meaning if you do not spend, you do not earn.
He was not speaking about spending on anything, but only things which generate income.
Suppose you own a grocery. Having sold all the stock you had and took money somewhere in a bank account or under a mattress will you still be earning money from the shop? No, unless you spend some of it on new stock.
The expenditure that is condemned is that which involves mere consumption. That which involves investment makes a business grow. Therefore, each journey the President makes abroad should be judged on the basis of consumption and investment.
The Presidentâ€™s visit to New York to attend the UN General Assembly meeting is a form of investment and should be welcome. The question of how big her entourage is, is a different matter. Presidents are their countriesâ€™ public relations officers number one.
Making acquaintanceship or friendship with other national leaders in the end pays dividends. Such friendly relations pave the way for trade and investment.
Critics have a case when they say some visits to chiefs are not worth the fuel spent by the presidential convoy which often includes ministers.
Fuel incurred on these trips could be saved for use by the private sector. District commissioners, principal secretaries or ministers should be assigned duties of representing the President where minor chiefs are concerned.
Cutting costs should be taken with greater seriousness than ever before. It is better to start economising on food when you still have some. You cannot economise on what you have already consumed.
When Dame Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of Britain in 1979 one of the first things she did was to invite the chief executive of Marks and Spencer, a supermarket chain, to study the cost structure in the civil service and advise on eliminating the wastage. By the time she left office 10 years later, the British economy was among the healthiest in the world.