Hon. Folks, poverty remains a big problem in the country since time immemorial and its ugly effects still corner millions of vulnerable Malawians to a tight spot.
It was not surprising, therefore, when President Lazarus Chakwera announced plans to move the country out of this predicament in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) to Parliament recently.
Chakwera also urged Malawians to refuse the categorisation of Malawi as a ‘poor country’ suggesting that Malawi’s poverty fix has been deliberately sponsored by past regimes.
“Ours is a country stripped of its God-given wealth and potential by syndicates of people in the public sector who exploit decades of bad government policies and practices to enrich themselves at the expense of Malawians.
“In short, the poverty of our people is man-made, which means it can and must be unmade,” he said.
Hon. Folks, the majority of Malawians are today entangled in sheer impoverishment which fuels a vicious cycle that deprives them access to basic assets, services and economic opportunities. This destitution also manifests in endless afflictions of corruption, disease and hunger.
No wonder former British Prime Minister Tony Blair once portrayed a make-believe illustration of how deep poverty was entrenched in Malawi and the rest of the African continent by admitting that “the State of Africa [was] a scar on the conscience of the world”.
Addressing his Labour Party Conference in October 2001, Blair went on to propose a fresh anti-poverty blueprint for Africa that dictated more partnerships from developed countries through untied aid, debt write-offs, good governance, infrastructure development and investment.
This proposal mandated targeted African countries to commit towards true democracy, no excuse for dictatorship, no abuse of human rights, no tolerance of bad governance and proper commercial, legal and financial systems, among others.
Whether or not Blair’s plan bore fruit in Malawi and other African countries is a story for another day. What is important, however, is the fact that Malawi’s progress in the fight against poverty has stagnated for decades in spite of numerous efforts by development partners to eradicate the vice.
Hon. Folks, many have sufficiently tackled several setbacks that deprive Malawi of strides that could otherwise catapult this great Republic into the Singapores of this world and it is imperative to restate some of those because repetition helps to get the point home (mphini yobwereza imawala).
Firstly, our investment climate obstacles such as poor infrastructure and unreliable electricity, water and transport need immediate overhaul to boost private investments. Since the dawn of multiparty in 1994, successive governments ignored this area as the custodians were mostly blinded by self-enrichment.
Growing corruption mainly in government has become the most dominant cause of poverty in the country as politicians continue colluding with public servants to defraud government of huge sums of money meant for poverty alleviation and development projects.
This problem has proved extremely difficult to solve previously because swindlers usually connive with top ruling party officials in government and they shield each other. Now all eyes are fixed on the Tonse Alliance on how they will deal with this puzzle.
Our poverty also stems from investment deals in mining, banking, manufacturing and trade, among others, which are not transparent and are linked to top government officers who receive kickbacks during identification and awarding of contracts.
Too much politicking, lack of transparency and accountability, absence of rule of law, poor public resource management and a dormant civil society also exacerbates poverty because they all form part of good governance sets.
This, Hon. Folks, is why we are of the same mind with the President on waging a relentless war on corruption through a new court, hiring of more judges, increased funding to ACB. This enterprise will for sure redeem millions of Malawians from the jaws of poverty.