When I read in The Nation of August 7 2012 that University of Malawi (Unima) staff are demanding a pay hike of 113 percent or else they will down their tools, I felt a chill in my bones.
University dons are part of the cream of society. They should understand better what government can pay them.
It was confirmed in the last session of Parliament that the DPP government has surreptitiously borrowed money from several commercial banks to cover up shortfalls in tax collections. The budget has just been passed. Has the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) already collected enough money to pay all these increments?
When the Judiciary non-professional staff went on strike, I predicted that hefty settlements would have repercussions throughout. The public service, I particularly had in mind the medical and teaching staff.
I wish the ministries of Finance, Education and Office of President and Cabinet invited the university staff and place before the tax returns and appropriations that have been planned.
The university staff should see for themselves what is available for sharing among all groups of citizens: the police, army, medical, agriculture and so on.
They should then be asked since this is all we have, where can we get the money they are demanding?
Should we cut down allocations to the hospitals or police?
Emotions and hard instinct sometimes deprive even highly educated people of logical thinking. This is a pity. The inflation that is now raging is not news.
When the late president Bingu wa Mutharika was resisting demands for devaluation, he pointed out inflation that would follow.
It was expected to happen when President Joyce Banda announced the devaluation and allowed the kwacha to float.
We thought the nation was going to brace itself and be prepared to endure the temporary hardships to get the economy on the move again.
The aim of devaluation was to create conditions which would boost our exports and discourage unnecessary imports.
Devaluation as it was favoured by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other donors has facilitated the resumption of aid in its various forms.
Our hope, all things being equal, is that the Malawi economy will revive. When the economy begins to register high growth rates again that is the time contributors to these changes should be asking for rewards.
The lecturers and other public servants are asking for salary hikes when the Malawi economy is in a state of stagnation.
The people of Germany are urging their government to stop bailing out the Greeks whom they accuse of living beyond their means.
By asking for a 113 percent, and if this is granted, Malawi will join the league of those countries that live beyond their means.
Eventually this will lead to insolvency. Who will rescue Malawi?
I invite you educated people to regularly read what is written in Newsweek, The Economist and other world magazines.
Clerks, nurses and primary school teachers can be excused for failing to appreciate the problems of sovereign debts, but not people occupying higher positions in society, especially if they have respectable academic qualifications.
Where development has taken place such as the Far East, members of the middle class such as senior civil servants, university dons heeded to calls for frugal life, high saving rates and shunning luxuries in initial stages of development programmes. In difficult conditions, some even volunteered salary cuts.
In Malawi suggestions such as these are out of question. Sacrifice is good provided it is the other fellow who bears it on behalf of us all. In Malawi, even if they do not say it openly, some people accept foreign tax payers to make sacrifices on our behalf.
With this in mind, we may as well discard any hope of taking Malawi out of poverty within the next 50 years. We want gain without pain and do not know that this rarely happens.
What we Malawians should be concentrating on now is supply side economics-producing rather than consuming. Let us be struggling to produce more of what we already produce, produce that which we are not producing such as tourism and manufacturing.
Once the economy experiences accelerated growth rates, salary hikes will not be a burden.
University lecturers should rise up to the demands of patriotism. Malawi is the only country we can call home. Gone are the days when we went out of Nyasaland to seek better jobs elsewhere. If we destroy the Malawi economy, where do we find succours?