In his new year’s address to the nation, President Peter Mutharika assured Malawians that life will be much better in 2016. Without much elaboration, he said the economy will turn around. This is what people want to hear. However, being positive about the future is one thing and making it real is yet another. In fact, one needs to take stock of how life in Malawi was in 2015. This can provide the best indicators. If at the close of 2015 positive changes were already taking place then this would give hope for a better 2016.
The President also talked about his government that it is aiming at creating a lot of jobs so as to sort out joblessness in the country. To crown it all, he said that several investors will be coming into the country.
The anomaly with the President’s speech was that he also warned Malawians about the devastating effects of the impending El Nino which will bring floods amongst other things. The question here is: Where does the prediction of a prosperous 2016 stand?
Meanwhile, the statement that there will be lots of jobs in 2016 might have excited so many Malawians. But the most important question is: How will the jobs be created? Unfortunately, government which is the main employer is reported bloated by 61 percent. Basically, this means freezing employment and scaling down those who are already employed. The government might be banking on investors to provide some employment. But this will be a drop in the ocean. In fact it is the duty of the DPP-led government to provide employment. It is common knowledge that some of the investors bring their own people to work for them.
Malawians can remember so well that during election campaigns a former president Bingu wa Mutharika promised that he would set up factories to process excess tomatoes produced at Jenda and other place in addition to setting up another factory to process fruits produced in Mwanza. Needless to say that this would have employed a significant number of people. Sadly, the promise is still at political rhetoric stage.
At the moment, the government might be thinking that by setting up community colleges it is creating jobs. This is neither here nor there. It is common knowledge that the community colleges are to train young men and women to be self-employed. To start with, to be self-employed without capital means nothing. Worse still without meaningful security, they cannot get loans from commercial banks. Experience has shown that loans from lending institutions organised by government is simply a mockery. Imagine, a person can get as low as K10 000. What business can one do and be successful with such a little amount?
Honestly, the future of the youth in this country is hopeless. The school fees hikes will make most of them drop out from school and join the already flooded streets of the jobless. By extension, there will be a security risk as some of the youth will try to make ends meet by joining criminal gangs. The police might be trying hard to get on top of the crime. Unfortunately, they have also admitted that the criminals are getting more sophisticated.
Despite all the drawbacks stated here, the Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe was recently quoted in the papers as saying that he predicts that the Malawi economy will stablise by May 2016. But how will it be with food shortages due to El Nino? In fact, now people are already suffering now from hunger which means that the little maize that people will grow will finish right there in the field by April 2016. It is very sad that every fact of life in this country is a vicious cycle.
Having said the above, it is difficult to see how 2016 will be a better year for poor Malawians who are in majority. The President should refrain from promising a better future when all indicators at the moment point the opposite direction. Instead he should provide guidance on how to ease the suffering that people are going through. People themselves are the better judges about their welfare.-