The DPP government recently challenged Malawians to stop pointing fingers at government and start offering suggestions that can propel the country to socio-economic development. He urged them to probe themselves as to why it is only Malawi that is not developing at a time when all its neighbours such as Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania are developing at a fast rate.
His remarks beg the question of who is responsible for developing the country. Ideally, everyone has a role to play in national development. But there is a limit to which individuals can contribute. Political leaders make critical political and economic decisions that determine the direction of the country. They vie for political office on the platform of developing the country and improving the lives of the people.
It is understandable that government cannot provide all the solutions to problems, but many of the challenges that Malawi faces require government intervention. For example, it is government’s responsibility to ensure that there is adequate medicine in hospitals, good infrastructure, adequate power, efficient public transport system, high educational standards, good macroeconomic environment etc. The list is endless!
One cannot understand why, for instance, Malawi does not produce enough food or have a shortage of water in cities when we have a huge lake. Or why we have persistent power black outs when we have abundant coal for alternative energy source.
While the private sector, the so-called engine of growth, has a role to play in national development, in Malawi the private sector is not doing enough to develop the country. Many companies depend on government for their survival. Government is the major buyer of their goods or services. Although they win tenders worth billions of kwacha, there is very little that they are doing to develop the country. This is exacerbated by the fact that ownership of many companies are in the hands of Asians many of whom invest elsewhere.
Malawi has remained stagnant for the past 51 years because of several factors. Lack of effective leadership is one of the major challenges. Despite receiving donor aid and raising funds locally, the resources do not reach the intended beneficiaries. A lot of resources are mismanaged, stolen or end up in individual pockets. We have seen how billions of kwacha have been systematically siphoned off from government coffers through tenders, fraud and corruption involving politicians, civil servants and the private sector dating back to UDF era. ‘Well-wishers’ also donate huge sums of money to political parties and other causes in return for business deals.
How can a country develop when there is gross economic mismanagement, rampant corruption and theft of public resources and poor implementation of development plans? Our leaders are bent on enriching themselves and their cohorts.
Malawians have never been short of brilliant ideas of how to run the country. But leaders do not listen.
For example, MPs advised government not to sell Malawi Savings Bank, but to capitalise it. But the advice was ignored. So, the problem of lack of development is not because of ordinary Malawians, but leaders. The private sector is also complicity because it is not doing enough despite making billions in profits. n