When the clock ticks midnight on Saturday, December 31, the year 2016 will take a bow and the New Year 2017 will begin. That is the moment often marked by spontaneous celebrations, including fireworks and drum beating.
This is the last entry for Business Unpacked in the year, so, I will dwell on reflections in the ending year while at the same time hoping for the best in the New Year.
In 2016, Malawians continued to face problems they have been accustomed to in recent years. If businesses and individuals were to cast votes, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) would top the list of frustrations Malawians endured as extended hours of power rationing forced them to invest in unplanned alternative sources of energy.
Domestic and industrial consumers have no kind words for Escom. From the look of things, there is no end in sight to power supply woes as most of the proposed or expected solutions may not materialise less than two or so years from now. These include the power interconnection project with Mozambique and improvement of the generation and distribution infrastructure under the United States of America (USA) government-funded Millennium Challenge Corporation energy compact.
In 2017, Escom will start it as a new entity having been split under the Power Sector Reforms Project. There will now be Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) that will be responsible for producing electricity and selling the same to Escom Residual. We will take a wait-and-see approach to assess whether the move will bring about efficiency or indeed it will only multiply inefficiencies.
Telecommunications operators also continued to give Malawians a raw deal by charging them more than the service they get. Browsing through social media platforms, frustrations abound among subscribers. If it is not about fast expiring data bundles then it is the high rate of dropped calls charged at rates out of this world.
During the year, Malawi completed the Regional Communications Infrastructure Project that hooked the country to a fiber optic cable to improve Internet speed and reduce costs. Sadly, Malawians continue to pay through the nose for the service to the shock of the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC), implementers of the project.
We have talked about the high tariffs on the market for telecommunications and ICT services. Perhaps 2017 should be the time to commission a study into the pricing of these products. What do the operators put in to charge the moon?
Whereas Blantyre residents had a relief in terms of water supply as there was marked improvement over the previous year’s situation, in Lilongwe the situation worsened as Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) struggled to provide water around the clock. There were several challenges that affected water supply. However, we hope in 2017 the situation will improve.
The year also saw the Public Sector Reforms Commission (PSRC) continuing with its reforms drive. Several public institutions embarked on implementation to improve service delivery.
The key to the success of the reforms lie in those at the helm of the various sectors producing quality reports and following up on quality control measures. As Vice-President Saulos Chilima said in his Christmas and New Year’s message, good time and resource management will determine the speed at which transformation takes place to bring about a positive change.
When all is said and done, no one can predict what the New Year 2017 will bring, but, what we need to understand and appreciate is that doing things in the same way will not give us different results.
I thank you all for the support in the year through your constructive criticism, input and all. I do not take such gestures for granted. May God bless you abundantly and give you more wisdom as we continue with the “unpacking” journey in future.
Wishing you a happy New Year 2017! n