Honourable Folks, last week we said to fellow citizens that Cheetahs donâ€™t push the buck and, as citizens, we have a role to play in ensuring that we pay the price for the economic blunders made by the previous regime in Malawi.Â
This week we say Cheetahs have the capacity to discern in full the wisdom in the saying that â€œonce bitten, twice shyâ€ and would not sit and watch should another government, including the incumbent Joyce Banda administration, dare drive the economy down the cliff again.
We owe this to our own wellbeing, the future of our children and the development of the beautiful Malawi that God generously gave us, the 14 million Malawians, who have nowhere else but this land to call home.
Multiparty democracy has rewarded our neighbours handsomely. Zambia is fast joining Botswana and Ghana into becoming a middle income economy. Our other neighboursâ€”Mozambique to the south and Tanzania to the northâ€”are also going forward not just in GDP growth rates but, more importantly, in human development.
Here in Malawi, despite the smooth transition from dictatorship to democracy 18 years ago, the pattern has been for every step forward, we take two steps backwards. It is as if we have been hit by civil strife or natural disaster of tsunami proportions.
The poverty reduction agenda of the 10-year Muluzi administration was also the agenda for the eight-year Mutharika administration and remains the agenda of the Banda administration today. All the three started by blaming their predecessor of completely destroying the economy and started with some form of economic recovery plan.
As Economic Planning and Development Minister Atupele Muluzi was launching the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) for the Banda administration on Tuesday, inflation was at 21.7 percentâ€”the highest in the Sadc region and the cost of borrowing was as high as 45 percent.
Both the public and private sectors were rocked in labour disputes as desperate employees demanded from equally desperate employers pay hikes to cushion the pangs of rising cost of living.
Some employees spend over a quarter of their incomes on electricity and water alone yet, despite the rising cost, these and other public goods and services are becoming more and more scarce, erratic and poorer by the day. Citizens are paying the price for public sector inefficiencies.
Cheetahs do not accept mediocrity. We must demand our right to be heard on matters affecting us and to hold those in government accountable if they dare flout rules of the game. To continue watching indifferently as the lucky few in government steer the ship towards the iceberg is allowing democracy to reduce us to the accursed offspring of Ham. Suffering can only become bearable if there is hope that life will change for the better tomorrow.
The Banda administration has come up with policies which have made life extremely hard for the citizens. The least it can do is lead by example by cutting expenditure on luxury by the Cabinet and top officials in government.
The President started well by choosing to fly commercial when there is a presidential jet for her. The other day she revealed that by flying commercial to Maputo and back the economy saved K13 million [about $43 333]. What a saving from a single trip!
But how much more would be saved by reviewing fuel allocations for Cabinet ministers, who mostly operate from Capital Hill? Canâ€™t the presidential convoy be reduced? What about the type of vehicle Ministers use: is it Land Cruiser VX, Mercedes Benz or both?
Where was sensitivity when our leaders increased their own perks by 80 percent when poorly paid workers were being offered peanuts? Has the government considered the symbolic value of reversing that hike?
Then there is also the question of strengthening systems to ensure transparency and accountability, especially in the use of public funds. The JB administration has been praised for being bold to devalue and float the kwacha. It has also been praised for repealing bad laws.
However, donorsâ€”Britain and Germany to be precise â€”are holding back the budgetary support, citing gaps in governance issues.
If it were not for the fact that the law demands that we pay tax willy-nilly, who would willingly pay tax to a government when the ACB, the body instituted to bust corruption, is without a director or deputy director?
Who would pay tax when the constitutional requirement that the President, Cabinet Ministers, MPs and top officials in the public sector should declare their assets and liabilities has largely been ignored?
Is it a small matter that corruption, fraud and inefficiency account for 30 percent of public revenue that goes down the drain annually? Cheetahs donâ€™t accept mediocrity!