The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has appointed Oral Williams as the fund’s new mission chief for Malawi.
Williams, who has worked in the institution’s African Department for three and half years, replaces Tsidi Tsikata who is heading for a similar post in neighbouring Zambia.
The new IMF mission chief, whose areas of expertise include development economics, economic research, international finance, macroeconomics, econometrics, international economics, among others, comes to Malawi during hard times when the country’s programme with the fund, the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) has been declared off-track with most targets set by the fund being in red.
Thus, he certainly has a daunting task ahead to make sure that he aids Malawi authorities build up more international reserves, manage net domestic assets of the Reserve Bank of Malawi also assist in lessening government huge appetite for domestic borrowing, some key targets in the ECF programme.
And Williams, speaking in an exclusive interview at his office in Washington DC, USA, sounded geared to his new challenge.
“For me as a new mission chief, basically I would first do some fact finding, to see what were the factors that led to the program being off-track due to the misappropriation of public funds?” said Williams who has also worked as IMF mission chief for Burundi and has done economic surveillance for IMF in East Africa Community region, among other regions.
He added: “My first task will be to restore confidence in the budget process and financial management systems.”
He said during his tenure of office, he will also make sure that Malawi government information management system is secure so that the basic factors that led to ‘previous non-respectful processes does not occur again.’
He said to kick-start his duty, he intends to meet all stakeholders including media, Civil Society Organisations, donors, and try understand not only the economy but also understand history of various institutions in Malawi.
“And also on the social aspect I would want to understand what makes Malawi to be Malawi and that will be my first order of business as incoming person just to listen and understand,” said Williams.
On the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill popularly known as Cashgate, Williams said it will definitely take a lot of time to rebuild credibility and trustworthiness but said “once you touch it, it’s gone and it’s even harder to restore.”
He said the looting of public funds has created mistrust between taxpayers and government.
“Whatever we do, it will be a long slow process because the public will be have doubt as to whether Cashgate will happen again, I don’t know all the fact but from what I have read, when you misappropriate your home funds, then taxpayers pay into the treasurer and on time and when people whom you have entrusted with take those funds, that creates a lot of doubt.”
He said the IMF mission led by himself envisage to come at the end of this month and spend about two weeks to meet with stakeholders and hold a press conference at the end.