It is an unenviable task because the bungled economy wonâ€™t get fixed easily. The zero-deficit budget has only succeeded in reversing the economic gains of the past seven years within months!
Now government canâ€™t raise enough revenue and the economy has lost its capacity to grow at a rate of above six percent that can lead to poverty reduction. Spin-doctors for the Mutharika regime blamed it all on the concept of the economic cycle, but many Malawians rightly put the blame on bad governance.
The mistake the Mutharika administration made was failure to recognise that the economic success of the pre-zero-deficit budget time could not all be attributed to the wisdom of the â€˜economic engineerâ€™. True, Mutharikaâ€™s government tried to spend within the budget and came up with the Farm Input Subsidy Programme which helped turn Malawi into a food exporter.
But the economic success also happened because the private sector and Malawian farming communities worked hard to generate the wealth that propelled the economy and generated the bulk (60 percent) of government revenue.
Another key contributor was the donor who contributed up to 40 percent of the national budget and over 80 percent of the revenue for development.
The zero-deficit budget failed because it did not cater for these two non-government players who together constitute the goose that lay the egg.Â Now donor goodwill has been greatly damaged. Restoring requires, among other things, reversing Mutharikaâ€™s anti-liberalisation policy and significantly devaluing the kwacha.
Those who argue that devaluation has already taken place may be right but also simplistic. Aligning the kwachaâ€™s official value with its market value will lead to a substantial hike in prices of all imports, including fuel, drugs and raw materials. It will cause as much pain as does pressing a boil to remove puss.
Simply put, itâ€™s not a politically correct decision. What the Madame President needs to do is use information dissemination tools at her disposalâ€”including public and private mediaâ€”to explain why we must swallow such a bitter pill.
Patients may swallow bitter herbs or drugs three times a day according to prescription by medical or traditional doctors if they know they will get better by the end of the day.
But the President has another daunting, immediate task: To ensure we are all correctly seated in the democratic canoe to ensure balance and that each one of us is playing their rightful roles to peddle the canoe to the shores.
A minister hinted in a newspaper interview recently that Madame Banda will inevitably dissolve the Cabinet and appoint her own ministers. The previous governments of Mutharika and MuluziÂ failed to make Malawians on the opposition side much more than passive spectators in the affairs of their own motherland.
Highly qualified and capable people would be sidelined as top jobs in the public sector and tenders to supply government with goods or services would be given as rewards for personal loyalty to the President and the party in government.
Consequently, both the Muluzi and Mutharika regimes were surrounded by people who simply nodded and applauded to anything good or bad in the name of â€œsupporting government of the dayâ€. As for us in the media, both previous regimes treated us as enemies despite that we have a clear constitutional mandate to disseminate information with which the citizenry can make informed choices as a matter of right, not privilege.
Madame Banda cannot meet all our expectations in the two years between now and the 2014 tripartite elections. What she can do, though, is to lay a firm foundation for democratic governance and economic growth.
Strengthening internal systems and decentralising power can add value to governance by spreading ownership of the developmental process and providing government with checks and balances. Again I say, donâ€™t look to Zimbabwe, look to Ghana instead.
The West African country has a governance model which, if adopted, can take us to our Vision 2020 and make Joyce Banda the first Malawian President to leave behind a good legacy.