The economy is refusing to give President Joyce Banda any breathing space and has blighted her one year in office, according to people who participated in a Nation on Sunday survey on the President’s first year in power.
The survey, which had 1 278 respondents, was conducted in 17 districts through face-to-face interviews and the short message service (SMS).
Out of 1 278 respondents, 900, representing 70 percent of the sample, indicated that they are not impressed with Banda’s performance as president.
In an interview on Saturday, national secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Chris Chisoni said Banda needs to do more to ease the economic problems Malawians are going through.
He said it is undeniable that the President inherited a host of problems when she assumed power in April 2012 after the death of former president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Chisoni cited the bad ties with donors as well as shortages of fuel and forex as some of the issues she had to grapple with.
“When she took over power, she had an opportunity to negotiate some of these things with donors, but she didn’t. She accepted everything such as devaluation of the currency and implemented things such as the automatic fuel pricing mechanism which have affected Malawians across all divides.
“She has brought [back reliable] fuel supply, but it is not affordable and automatic fuel pricing means that traders can hike products without being checked,” he said.
Another commentator, human rights activist Billy Mayaya, said Banda’s rule is a mixed bag.
He hailed the President’s efforts to resurrect the economy, her restoration of international relations and her repealing of the bad laws as some of her achievements.
“Ironically, the weak points stem from the extravagance and unbridled expenditure of her government on international travel which ideally should be delegated to technocrats in key ministries. She spends too much time out of the country with a begging bowl which someone else can carry.
“Her presence in the country is hardly felt. The purchase of new luxury cars for ministers is a slap in the face in this time of supposed austerity.
“The Economic Recovery Plan [ERP] is her key policy agenda, but it has not been well articulated. She has not been seen to involve key stakeholders to seek consultations on how to improve on her vision. After setting a premature 18-month timeline, she has opted to change goalposts and left her policy vision hanging,” said Mayaya.
Asked whether Banda is a listening President, Chisoni said she has not done enough to demonstrate this spirit.
“Take the hunger in the country, for example. Maize gets damaged in silos and nobody comes to explain anything. The drug crisis is also out there in hospitals, the nation needs to know what is happening,” he said.
Going forward, Mayaya said Banda needs to return to the drawing board and focus on articulating her vision for economic recovery as this will be the number one issue in the 2014 elections.
“Malawians will decide her fate based on the message she crafts related to the recovery of the free-falling economy. Jokes about bonya and bwanoni aside, she must invest the remainder of the time before elections in courting citizens with concrete messages of moving Malawi from the current state of economic desperation to jobs, improved incomes and hope for the future,” he said.
Government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu defended the President’s policies, saying whatever policies Malawi is implementing are owned by government, dismissing assertions that government implements IMF prescriptions blindly.
“We sat down, consulted and came up with those policies because they are relevant to Malawi, whether copied, borrowed or similar to IMF or elsewhere,” he charged.