Four major political parties in Malawi have weighed in on how the state of affairs—economically, politically and socially—has been in 2016 with major opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and former governing People’s Party (PP) describing the year as the worst economically.
On the other hand, the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its close ally United Democratic Front (UDF), while accepting that all has not been rosy on the economic front in 2016, have attributed the situation to the absence of direct budget support and the two consecutive years of hunger facing the country, among others.
MCP deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka in an interview on Thursday said the state of affairs in 2016 completely crumbled and everything, ranging from key sectors of agriculture, education and health, has failed thereby making Malawians face the consequences.
He said: “I would say that 2016 has been one of the worst years economically, that would be our assessment. We have made that assessment because everything has failed. If you look at agriculture, it is at its worst, if you look at education some universities are closed, you look at the crumbling health system, no drugs in the hospital
“Every aspect of the economic life has crumbled and we do not need to talk any more than that because the system has been bad.”
Speaking on the political front, Mkaka said the opposition, in providing checks and balances and avoiding government excesses, has done excellent in 2016 only that government has not been listening.
On how the country should move forward in 2017, he said the major problem in Malawi is not lack of drugs in public hospitals nor the closure of schools or colleges, neither is it skyrocketing prices of fertiliser and other products, but corruption, stating that once corruption.
He added: “The major problem in Malawi is corruption. If we root out corruption; we will be on our way to economic development because Escom, water boards, the health system are all failing because of corruption.
“So, the major challenge in 2017 will be how to root out corruption and what we should fight for as the citizenry in the New Year 2017 is the independence of the Anti-Corruption Bureau [ACB].”
PP spokesperson Nowa Chimpeni shared Mkaka’s sentiments, saying 2016 has been a bad year for Malawians because issues of corruption are at its worst and it is unfortunate that the President [Peter Mutharika], during his recent rally in Mzuzu, said that there is no corruption on DPP’s watch.
“This is very unfortunate because it is as if he is giving a multiple entry visa to his officials into the world of corruption. And again, the cost of living for Malawians has gone up, if we look at the prices for maize, it is now selling at K12 500.
“The education sector is crippled, some of our institutions of higher learning are still closed as we exit 2016 and we do not know at what time exactly in 2017 that they are going to be opened,’’ he said.
In its assessment of 2016, the DPP said politically, the country has done “extremely” well because in terms of political dispensation, all stakeholders are doing what is required of them without fear of intimidation, hindrance and there has been no political arrests.
Said DPP spokesperson Francis Kasaila on Friday: “Therefore, I believe that politically, as a country, we have been able to sustain our democracy in accordance with our Constitution. That has to seriously be seen as very positive on our side.
“Socially, we faced serious challenges in the last two years, but the thing is, there are initiatives being undertaken to support our vulnerable communities, they have not been left alone and this year alone we know that more than 6.5 million people are food insecure, but all of them are being supported by government through the food distribution which is going on since July 2016.”
Kasaila said that worth noting is that despite the challenges, here is a country without direct budget support moving on with the main social services still taking place.
On what ought to be done for a better 2017, Kasaila pointed out two things. The first is that people should appreciate that it will not be possible for government to provide everything for its people because with an economy like Malawi’s, it is not possible for government to subsidise everything, and therefore, there are things which Malawians should take up responsibility for and allow government concentrate on other things that will move the economy forward.
UDF spokesperson Ken Ndanga, in a telephone interview on Thursday, said the other biggest challenge was the back-to-back hunger situation that affected the country between 2014/15 and 2015/2016 as this has caused a lot of problems to Malawians and 2016 will probably be remembered for this. n