Time management expert Edwin C. Blisc in his book, ‘Getting Things Done’, says certain things that are essential for success in life are usually categorised as not urgent. For example, you feel strongly that taking a correspondence course, or writing a book will contribute to your success in life. But there are other things not so important, which you feel more urgent. You do these first.
You may, for example, feel spending your money on a new suit to be presentable at the wedding as more urgent than spending on correspondence. You may similarly feel attending social functions as more urgent than looking yourself up in a room to start writing. You say I will do this tomorrow, I will start this tomorrow. Twenty or 30 years later you say if I had the time I would have taken a degree by correspondence or I would have written a best seller. You have not done the things that could have made a difference in your life.
In the management of the Malawi economy, the political chief executives have been placing certain very important matters on the non-urgent list and that is why economic problems of Malawi seem intractable. How long have we heard some people saying irrigation schemes must be intensified because climate change has meant unreliable rains and interminable droughts, yet all these years our agriculture is still vulnerable because irrigation continues to be of minor important in our development plans.
For how long have we been aware that tobacco, as an export product, has an uncertain future because the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the anti-smoking lobby are actively persuading people to stop smoking? Yet, from the lips of our leaders, we still hear of how important tobacco is in our exports. They talk as if the demand for our tobacco exports has a buoyant future.
The fact is that no matter how we improve the art of growing tobacco, all that we are doing is to incur expenses. It is the world market that turns these expenses into cash; the international market for our tobacco has a short future. Are we going to start working hardest on economic diversification when world markets have completely ceased buying our tobacco? What exactly are we doing to survive the doomsday? The main weakness in the management of Malawi economy is that we are not organised for success. This requires management by objectives, courtesy of Peter F. Drucker.
Both irrigation and diversification programmes must have elevated status in ministries. They must be placed under technocrats on contract with big salaries eligible of earning bonuses for achieving results and being thrown out when they have nothing to show. Egypt achieved civilisation in the past through irrigation and continue to prosper through irrigation. There is no shortage of technical help about irrigation in the world.
On tobacco, two research programmes should be initiated. Can new uses be found for tobacco? This could save industry. We should have scientists both domestic and foreign working on this. We could liaise with other tobacco exporting countries such as Zimbabwe.
The other is agricultural and industrial diversification. What crops are we introducing or improving as part of the programme of diversification? What secondary and tertiary industries are we introducing specifically as part of the diversification programme?
Efficient management requires that programmes should not be open-ended. There should be targets and deadlines. On particular dates of the year, those in charge of a programme should submit reports to Parliament through a designated minister. Members of Parliament should be required to read the reports and if necessary the managers of the programme should appear before a standing parliamentary committee.
All around Malawi is failure to make headway because all round there is no management by objectives, rather there is management by objections: criticising and counter criticising. Criticisms are all we hear about. We must now insist on results, not finger pointing.
Those in charge of programmes should be required to travel to those countries where similar programmes have succeeded. Economists and journalists tell us that the Green Revolution in Asia was a result partly of extensive irrigation scheme. We may send our technocrats there to augment their knowledge and experience.
Some members of the public have lamented the fact that each in-coming government tends to abandon schemes started by the outgoing government purely for political reasons. This practice retards development. Genuine development is built on foundations laid down by others. n