As President Joyce Banda bathes in the cosmetic glare of international adoration as Africa’s second female Head of State—never mind that she only assumed the position following an accident of fate—Malawians are dying because there are no basic and essential drugs in referral and district hospitals nationwide.
As a leader, she has failed miserably in dealing with this crisis—and that is a gross understatement because as far as I can remember, there is no national crisis she has ably handled since becoming President.
After months of the Ministry of Health insisting that public hospitals have enough drugs, Health Minister Catherine Gotani-Hara admitted last week that Malawi’s hospitals only have five percent of the drugs needed.
Mind you, we are talking about basic and essential medicine here, nothing fancy.
That the attention-seeking Mrs. Banda is somewhere in South Korea when back home doctors from Kamuzu Central Hospital have published a heart-rending open letter to the President and the public in general on the deathly situation in public health facilities and literally begging that government must stop preventable deaths by providing drugs to its hospitals, aptly summarises the attitude of her administration to this crisis: So, what?
It is clear that the accidental People’s Party government does not treat as an emergency a situation in which public hospitals nationwide do not have 95 percent of the required medicine.
The only urgency demonstrated so far is how fast the President is clocking frequent flier miles, blowing up her budgets and piling up the national debt even when “No Net Domestic Financing” is supposed to be the main fiscal anchor of her administration’s 2012/13 maiden budget.
Just this month, the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) reported that government borrowing from commercial banks jumped by K14.1 billion or roughly 11 percent in November alone to settle at K139.7 billion from K125.6 billion in October 2012.
I don’t want to start laughing off Finance Minister Dr Ken Lipenga’s claims that the increase in net credit to government “will not have an impact on the overall economy because during the first quarter, we repaid more than what was programmed…as such, despite the increase in net domestic borrowing, we were still within target and, therefore, our fiscal activities are not expansionary or inflationary.”
This, of course, is a load of political hodge-podge. But I will not go there. The issue here is that Lipenga must explain, first, why he is abandoning his own policy of zero net domestic borrowing and, second, what all this borrowed money is being spent on when our hospitals don’t even have drugs and taxpayers, in whose name the funds are borrowed and who will repay the expensive loans, cannot access services such as health-care.
Look around you, everything in this country is collapsing before our very eyes—from health care and education systems to public finance and economic management. When will this entire pretext at governing circus end?
Even the so-called Economic Recovery Plan is slipping away from the administration’s fingers and no amount of propaganda, including from the recently salvaged Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe, can change the trajectory.
Come to think of it, has the DPP-turned-PP economist completely lost his bearings? Gondwe seems to think that all of us—except him, of course, are dunderheads who just conjured up the 18 months implementation period for the recovery plan.
Well, he should ask his Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, Lipenga, Reserve Bank Governor Charles Chuka, Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu and even Gondwe’s own deputy, Khwauli Msiska.
They will tell him where we got the 18 months time-frame. If Gondwe joined government to help Banda spin her failures, then the man I once respected and worked for does not deserve anymore the high esteem in which I once held him.
By the way, I came across a government statement that was supposed to inform the public that the Economic Recovery Plan is beginning to show positive results and that recovery is underway. The statement was signed by Chuka and Lipenga. It was published on January 1 2013.
The statement’s concluding paragraph read: “With the support of the cooperating partners and government’s efforts to cushion the vulnerable, we anticipate that at the end of 18 months, we will hit the turn of the cycle.”
Good ole’ Gondwe may wish to read that statement—and ponder what has happened to