Sorry Chris Chisoni, executive director of High Education Students Loan Board (HESLB).
I had earlier, on this column, promised—though with conditions—to be among the first, please underline the ‘first’, to repay my share of the K3.8 billion loan which university students owe government.
Not anymore, Chris—I have changed my mind. I will now be the last on the queue. Time has killed the goodwill I had.
But why the change of heart? Well, I have two principal reasons.
Firstly, the offensive drive of the government you are working for to reclaim these loans is stinking with phenomenal double-standards.
You see, it is a fact that me and several other university students owe government about K3.8 billion for the loans we took to cover our tuition. This is public money and, I do not contend, we have no option besides repaying it.
But look here.
It is not just university students who owe government.
As I write this, Malawians are owed close to about K8 billion for the unpaid loans at the defunct Malawi Savings Bank (MSB).
As I write this, Malawians are owed billions from the social funds such as Yedef and Maderf loans.
The list is long—you can add yours to it.
What needs to be underlined here is that this is public money and it must be recovered and given back to the owners—Malawians.
To mean, government needs to put in place non-discriminatory mechanisms to recover these loans. Unfortunately, that is not happening.
Just look around.
Government—through Chris and his friends at the loans board—has gone on the worst offensive to recover K3.8 billion from university students.
Yet the same government is mild and cold on recovering about K8 billion some private traders took from the defunct MSB bank.
Hindsight on this double-standards makes it hurt even worse.
You see, the K8 billion which private traders took was purely for their individual enterprises which has little, if not nothing to do with the public. The K3.8 billion, on the other hand, was invested in skills development the country needs.
It is surprising why government is coy on recovering K8 billion from people who borrowed public money for private needs, at the same time being hard and resolute on recovering K3.8 billion that its use is benefiting the entire nation.
Well, some would argue we are comparing mangoes to oranges here. Great!
But, look here.
Some of us are watching with pain why some people who owe the public continue to go scot-free.
This, face it Chris, eats away goodwill to comply with every offensive step government takes to pay back the loan. We are equal before the law and none wants to see some, within us, flirting with the advantage of being more equal than others.
Secondly—which is the last reason—Chris and friends at loans board need to face the fact that the system which his institution is operating on does not inspire even the slightest confidence when it comes to financial management.
Here is what I mean.
All Chris and friends want us to do is to pay back the money. But some of us have been in Malawi for years to understand, painfully, how funds get abused and plundered by public officials.
For instance, we know that some cool millions have, so far, been recovered. We do not know, unfortunately, where this money is and how it is being used.
Further, there is fear, justifiable so, among others that the recovered funds will only end up sustaining the loans board’s operations, not going back to the students.
In fact, I know some friends with an interesting take on this.
They argue that they would rather, directly, pay for a particular needy student than paying back the loan to government. To mean, confidence levels in the system Chris is operating from are low—record low.
Seriously, Chris, I am not trying to make your job tougher. No. Rather, I am only trying to share with you some of the feelings out there regarding the whole loan repayment saga.
Otherwise, as already indicated, I will be the last on the queue. n