The temptation was to talk about Finance Minister Felix Mlusu’s budget presentation second coming. But then, a lot has been said on the pros and cons.
Although that lure is set, the wonder still remains why nothing was said about the value added tax (VAT) on cooking oil for which manufacturers blame the obscene rise in the product. There was great talk about how although the minister appeased imbibers by reducing VAT on opaque beer and malts did not say who exactly was minimal with the truth between the cooking oil manufacturers and the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) which claims increase in VAT can’t translate into increased prices.
Like it or not, the cooking oil issue is thorny among people in the little shacks of our shanty townships.
The temptation was to talk about the fire upon government for voting against a motion at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to investigate violence in the recent conflict between Israel and the autonomous Palestine territory of Gaza. But then, this is an issue as complex as asking what one would make of President Lazarus Chakwera donning military regalia (a first stunt of its kind from State House since 1964.
That the vote passed put Malawi in an awkward position, as under Chakwera Malawi has recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital when most of the world recognises Tel Aviv. Like I said, the appeal to talk about these diplomatic nuances is very easy to refuse.
Yet, the temptation is so great to look into the furore some Malawians have expressed over commercial banks’ decision to introduce accounts targeting banki m’khondes. National Bank of Malawi brought Kasupe Account, Standard Bank introduced Khonde Savings Account, FDH Bank set up Nkhokwe Settings Account while NBS Bank brought us Tidalirane Account.
The wonder is: Why have the banks just woken up to think the ‘village banks’ are the next possible sector they can tap capital from? In crude language, it is said that once is a surprise, twice a coincidence and thrice is enemy action. When it happens a fourth time, what should it be?
So, the banki m’khonde proponents have all reason to react to the perceived ‘enemy’ action. They see the foot of the capitalist trampling on the grapes they harvested under a tormenting sun.
It is a wake-up call for the banks, where Malawians have been worried that their lending terms are prohibitive for the next man on the street. Look at the disparities in interest rates when one is getting a loan and when someone is opening a fixed deposit account! Bank loans are perceived as carrots dangled before tired horses.
The National Statistical Office (NSO) Fifth Integrated Household Survey for 2019- 2020 shows that about 36.4 percent of Malawian households borrowed from village banks, 23.5 percent from neighbours, 8.1 percent from religious leaders, with 7.7 percent from loan sharks (akatapira), 6.6 from NGOs while 6.3 from banks. The remainder is shared among Saccos, Malawi Rural Finance Company (MRFC) and employers.
This literary shows how much Malawians have lost confidence in commercial banks where loans are concerned. It is high time the banks did some soul-searching as to why this trend occurs instead of asking themselves how best they can tap into the banki m’khonde notion.
The banks are using the clubs and association model for the opening of the banki m’khonde accounts, instead of becoming more flexible on making their loans easily accessible and with no obscene interest terms.
The argument has been propelled that for security matters, groups should open the accounts. But then, the observation is that groups work out how they will deal with such security matters.
Not to be seen as propelling a bush economy, research by so many organisations including Oxfam, Care shows that village savings and loans should be upheld. Let banki m’khonde’s go no further than the verandah into banking halls.