Experience has given Malawians enough lessons that politicians in this country take them for granted.
In the absence of a strong and proactive opposition, of late, the voiceless poor majority have looked up to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and some brave civil rights activists such as Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito to put the politicians under check.
But it is well documented that ruling parties and their governments, the present ones inclusive, have left no stone unturned to rebuke those that police them.
Currently, the ruling People’s Party (PP) leadership under Joyce Banda is convinced that it is working for the good of Malawians, so it is unfair for the likes of Kapito and other voices in the opposition to be speaking against some government policies. That includes acceptance to devalue and later float the kwacha; and adopting the automatic fuel pricing mechanism.
In strict economic sense, devaluing the kwacha was a reality which was to catch up with us sooner rather than later, so as experts are telling us, it was a necessary evil the current regime had to embark on. The undesirable expected effects of the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s poor monetary policy in as far as the real value of the kwacha was concerned, are what Malawians are suffering from now.
But it does not require the knowledge of a rocket scientist to realise that the adopted fuel pricing system, which hinges on the real time value of the dollar, will never be in the interest of Malawians. No matter for how long we can wait, the kwacha can never appreciate in value against the dollar for the price of fuel in Malawi to go down, let alone stabilise.
I must admit that there is nothing new I am saying about this fuel pricing issue, and I am certain that I am not going to be the last to say this which has been said many times before and by people better versed in economics than some of us. There, we have no choice but to resign to our fate.
Bingu’s failure to realise that he could not hold on to the real value of the kwacha forever and his hurried infamous zero-deficit budget, makes many wonder which school of economics he went to. Besides, he had some leadership qualities rational thinking Malawians will remember him in many years to come.
Regrettable, the current regime is inflicting additional unnecessary pain on Malawians by politicising food, maize in particular, when the same people preach at their campaign meetings that Malawians do not eat politics, but food.
Again, the problem of scarcity of maize in the country has been the subject of debate at various levels, all ending at blame-games while the poor majority have been used as the pawn. Amid cries of lack of maize in Admarc depots, the President has been going in the length and breadth of the country distributing maize and maize flour to needy Malawians. The source of this maize has been a bone of contention in some quarters, but I do not intend to make it as such in this entry.
Rather, I would like to give the other side of the equation for the powers that be to consider. Whether one likes it or not, the President’s food distribution exercise has seriously eaten into the maize supply on the market. The other day she disclosed that she buys what she distributes from Rab Processors and Farmers World.
It cannot be denied that the maize and flour being sold by the two outlets to the President are supplies that cushion supplies on the open market. Any wonder that maize flour, which most residents in the country’s urban areas rely on in these difficult times, is now a rare commodity?
The bottom line is that the President does not see merit in those attributing the shortage of maize on the open market to her generosity-cum-campaign.
Yet, the people she is targeting are the same ones benefiting from the billions of kwacha under the subsidy programme at the expense of taxpayers who now cannot find maize or flour in the shops while she is able to put it in huge tonnes for free distribution.
It is a raw deal to the taxpayer.–The author is based in Blantyre and likes commenting on social issues