Scholar Lewis had his take on stages of development or better, growth. The statistics are, however, very worrying and do not paint that picture any dreamer wishes for. Neither do sentiments nor the psyche gives you a feeling that the conditions of a take-off are close by. The only positive thing one feels is that we have known no war but the annoying part is the inability to build prosperity on a foundation solid in peace. Ironically, war-torn countries have moved on and their progression to prosperity is enviable. What is it that other countries do right? Or what wrong is it that we do?
Trending for the past days is the Malawi kwacha, water shortages, electricity cuts and some dysfunctional machines at one referral hospital. These are not new developments and they have continued to be the norm. Maybe the currency stuff is a bit different and tricky, though its stability, irrespective of its strength is what the economy needs.
I do not think we should be hiring world class physicists or rocket scientists to help us crack the puzzle that our nation appears eternally entangled in. The finger loves to point at the politician, but I reckon, that most of us bear the blame somehow. Though not directly linked, a collection of individual personal decisions culminate into what becomes a national whole. All I am saying is maybe as individuals we are not doing enough.
Last week saw water tariffs go up by some staggering 45 percent in Lilongwe. To those tasked with selling this country, it is a stab in the back. Businesses and would be investors rate this as a cost anywhere. Something like this adds into the cost of doing business in an environment saturated with chronic inflation. Prices or tariffs should rise once in a while but there should be a strategy. If I was manning the water boards of this country or running the ministry responsible for rainfall and rivers, I would take notice that our population is rising. Similarly, if I was in charge of generating electricity I would take the same cognisance.
This way, I would do a great favour to the people tasked with selling this country as an investment destination. By recognising that Malawi has close to three million households with an average household size of six, I would do my maths and think of how many megawatts need to be generated at a minimum for each home to have electricity. I would also pay attention to the current power needs for businesses. I would do similar maths if I was I needed to think of water needs for all households and businesses. That way, I would not focus my business strategy on raising tariffs to pay bonuses that my staff require at the end of each year.
Maybe I am being simplistic, but great ideas begin with crafting a basic model. Otherwise, I don’t envy the job of the Malawi Investment and Trace Centre (Mitc). It requires one to master the art of mumbling if confronted by obvious questions from would be investors on reliability of utilities such as water and electricity. In the business world, there is no mumbling. The language is so blunt, straight simply because entrepreneurs invest millions and take huge risks on their investment. For sure, the risk they take is never lack of water or electricity to run a machine, but something else. You can call it basics of investment promotion. It is not surprising that investors sometimes flock to countries that appear very volatile and less peaceful than ours.
As we match on and really try to crack the puzzle I am still trying to fizzle the puzzle. Simple and blind decisions to start building our generating capacity beyond at multiple factors of current demand oriented at future generations should underpin our minds to strategic investment in public infrastructure. While utilities was a classic case, we can replicate other sectors such as hospitals, universities and roads that are failing to cope with our rising population.
Otherwise, the mumbling makes the business of investment promotion a hard one. Can we be fair to these guys for once? n