Recently President Peter Mutharika was in Egypt at Sharm el-Sheik attending a meeting on Tripartite Free Trade Area. While there, he addressed some Malawi journalists who accompanied him. In his address, he appealed to journalists not to demonise Malawi with exaggerated negative reports on poverty. Among other things, he said that such negative reporting scare away would-be investors. Fair enough.
Honestly speaking, poverty in the country as well as lack of investors has nothing to do with how journalists have been reporting about Malawi. This country is poor and cannot be sugar-coated and call it something else for the sake of attracting investors. In fact, any serious investor cannot just rely on journalists’ reports—whether good or bad—to make a decision. They have to visit the country to see the situation on the ground. Needless to say government has to do a lot of homework before an investor shows up.
If, hypothetically, journalists can write imaginary economic success stories to cover up poverty, then what measures are there to stop visiting foreign journalists from writing the truth and exposing the country’s poverty?
It must be pointed out that people talk a lot about poverty because the majority of Malawians are suffering from it. It is not a matter of glorifying it but showing concern about this perennial poverty. Worse still, there is no sign that it will go away soon.
Meanwhile, the economic policies and strategies put in place by the current DPP government are an old song. It is not an overnight miracle. Every government in power has been singing this song with nothing much to write home about. Honestly, which economic strategy can work in a country where those in authority are busy converting public resources into personal fortunes? This practice is what has brought about the infamous Cashgate which has sunk Malawi even deeper into poverty. The situation can turn around if there can be meaningful political will and not just political rhetoric which is the case now.
If Rwanda did it after a difficult set back of a genocide in 1994, then why can’t Malawi make it? When Mutharika has a chance of meeting President Kagame of Rwanda, he must learn from him.
The meeting should not be business as usual of coming up with irrelevant clichés which goes like this, ‘we had some fruitful discussions’ which time and again translate into nothing.
To be fair to Dr Kamuzu Banda’s government, it set high standards in running the economy. Personalising public resources was unheard of. Even stealing K500 was a jailable offence. The high discipline coupled with a spirit of hard work, most people were doing well. With good tobacco prices coupled with available Admarc markets, people had money with which to improve their lives. Malawians can remember so well that in the 1980s some 200 tobacco farmers went to Sanjika Palace, each one of them with a new Toyota pickup to show the president. Nothing of that sort can happen now when it can even be alleged that one man can steal over K90 billion from government coffers.
The DPP-led government should know better that there is more in attracting investors. Without good security and reliable power, investors might not be attracted even if one writes a good report about the country.
Poverty in Malawi is not being glorified, but it is what it is. Government should just face reality and hold the bull by the horn.