International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it loud and clear that Malawi needs a long-term strategy towards financial independence. It is kind disheartening that we are into protracted discussions to secure a mere $19 million (K6.2 billion) from them. Itâ€™s peanuts. Put it simple, it means each one of us will pocket a dollar and 50 cents (K160). It canâ€™t take us anywhere. It could be the reason, in the wisdom of the IMF, that steps towards reducing dependency on foreign aid in the long term must shape up now than later. It is in such respect that Parliament must enact necessary legislation that secures economic interests of our country, particular natural resources such as minerals.
Each one of us, including MPs, is pretty much aware that the role of Parliament is to enact laws. It is not an institution where elected leaders ask a minister to drill a borehole or build a toilet for a primary school in their village. Such are duties of councillors and local councils. Unfortunately, over the years, MPs have considered their role as similar to councillors. Luckily MPs saw the wisdom in passing the tripartite elections bill. Remember, it should not be about individuals, but national interests first.
With fuel shortages, a normality, despite attempts to seek various credit lines, befriending emirs and other petrol barons, the forex crisis shows no sign of easing. We have screwed up heavy on Kayelekera, a potential source of forex whose deal remains a mystery. While it is a foreign company, a 15 percent stake in it means we have someone sitting on their board representing interests of Malawi Government, the minority shareholder. The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament or MPs must ask some questions to whoever represents our interests to secure maximum benefit from our own resources. It is plain simple that in any business venture that taxpayers money is invested, Malawians have a right to know and demand answers in the same way various parastatal chiefs or PSs are summoned. I believe disclosure rules apply for companies such as Paladin that trade publically on the ASX in Sydney.
The whole essence of separation of powers was crafted for a sound reason. If mining deals and their controversy are done in boardrooms, MPs on the other hand must enact laws through a private member bill to secure our national resources. We should always remember that investors are capitalists and it is good to have them, but relationships must be win-win, not parasitic. It should not be left to a Ngonde Paramount Chief or a Karonga Northwest MP to fight for what really belongs to Malawi since proceeds go into the national budget.
Someone must wake up and consider a private member bill to ensure a 50 percent-50 percent ownership of our potential mines or something closer depending on certain conditions. Robert Mugabe might have been demonised by Western media on laws regarding foreign ownership of mines, but he had interests of Zimbabwe first. Botswana has followed a principle of 50 percent percent ownership while South Africa ensures they are heavily taxed. In both cases, more benefits have accrued to national coffers. It could be one long-term strategy towards reduced donor dependence, of course not in the manner of circumstantial egoistic zero-deficit budgets.
We can extend similar reasoning through banking regulations to ensure that proceeds go into our own banks. It is pointless allowing investors to channel all proceeds to off-bank accounts while at the same time, they enjoy tax credits mining our resources. What can we show for our exports if all the money doesnâ€™t go into our own banks? It is a double tax benefit to them. They donâ€™t pay tax on proceeds of resources mined in Malawi just like no taxes are paid in offshore accounts. We are the ultimate losers and will have the urge to seek foreign aid to pay for fuel. Financial independence starts here with respect to mineral resources.
Malawi is sitting on heaps of natural resources and we need clear laws to secure our resources and benefit our own country. Prospects of Kanyika mining are great and we can do better drawing from experiences of the Kayelekera secrecy. We have to renegotiate Kayelekera as the current manner has hallmarks of colonial intent to devour our natural resources by paying us peanuts. Our MPs can leave the borehole and toilet business to councilors and concentrate on enacting relevant legislation that will enhance financial independence and development of our nation, keep executive decisions in check.