The political weather of Malawi is stormy and acrimonious, largely because the Ministry of Information and Civic Education has not sufficiently engaged people on pertinent issues such as the zero-deficit budget.
There have been misconceptions about the zero-deficit budget, devaluation and the real wealth of Malawi.
When introducing the budget, government should have explained what it is all about and what people should expect.
The zero-deficit budget or balanced budget simply means living within your means, receiving neither largesse nor borrowing.
When you live entirely within your income, you forego some luxuries.
Someone sang: “Achimwene musawope ngongole inu, mukaopa mudzagona ndi njala. Mukaona anzanu akukhwasulakhwasula zonse amachita zokongola [brother, you should not shy away from indebtedness. When you see people living like gourmets, they use borrowed money].”
Government should have prepared people what to expect by speaking with candour as Winston Churchill did when he became British Prime Minister in 1940. Adolf Hitler had given the British an ultimatum to negotiate or bear the risks.
“I have nothing to offer you,” said Churchill, “but blood, sweat and tears.”
He asked people to rally behind him and to avert annihilation by Nazi Germany, enslavement of the British people and seizure of their empire.
The entire British Empire rallied behind Churchill because they faced defeat and humiliation, on one hand, and victory and freedom, on the other.
Our government should have told people that the zero-deficit budget came after our traditional friends and benefactors had tightened a noose on their aid.
When a friend, who has been helping you with school fees for your children suddenly stops giving you money, what do you do?
You take heed of what Dr Aggrey advised fellow Africans wherever he went “make use of what you have to get what you want”.
If you have two cows, you sell one to raise the fees. If you have two suit, you auction one. These are painful decisions, but you are looking to the future; what your children and you will have when they are educated and get a job.
In other words, government should have appealed to people to accept the sacrifices knowing that at the end of the day, there will be rewards.
All countries that prospered, people rallied behind their leaders and endured the pains. After the pains, there were the gains.
Since some people had a vague idea about the zero-deficit budget, they are now ridiculing the concept while others ask government to abandon it altogether.
But do they know what this request amounts to. It is, on one hand, telling government to accept grants from donors. As far as I know, government did not say it will have nothing to do with donor grants; the donors have simply turned off their tap. There is no way a beneficiary can compel a benefactor. The former is at the mercy of the
On the other hand, advising government to abandon the zero-deficit budget is the same as asking it to borrow money wherever it is found.
There are advantages and risks of being heavily in debt. We were rescued from high debt which we had no clue how to get out of it.
I do not know how we piled the debt. We need to do a research to throw some light on this matter.
I am, however, sure that most countries in such debt borrow from private sources at commercial rates of interest. They borrow from banks in developed countries.
Nowadays, there is a lot of capital looking for borrowers, especially in the Middle East or the Arab world.
It is easy to be lured into these and enjoy life using borrowed money which later turns out to be accumulated troubles.
I would advise those who suggest that we should abandon the zero-deficit budget to read the latest issues of Newsweek if they have not read the latest The Economist.
Ã¢â‚¬â€To be continued on Monday