Perhaps we have forgotten.
Before the allocation rose to K42 billion in the 2012/2013 budget, the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) got a whopping K17 billion in the 2011/2012 budget.
Achieving food (maize) security for the 2012/2013 consumption season is the only justification—or call it propaganda, for FISP to get such billions. But have we achieved it?
The 2012/2013 consumption season is the one that the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) in October found that 1.6 million Malawians will be in dire need of food. And indeed they were; we have seen them and we hold the truth to be self-evident.
To save these 1.6 million who—I can even testify before the court of law because I have seen it—were on the verge of dying, the World Food Programme (WFP) and other aid agencies put together a cluster-based response to a tune of more than $100 million (about K40.7 billion). A whooping K40.7 billion, ladies and gentlemen!
But wait a minute: If we invest K17.4 billion in 1.4 million people to produce enough maize for the country, but because of dry spells and floods, that investment results into 1.6 million people going dangerously hungry needing K40.7 billion to be fed, is our conscience really sworn as a nation that we should continue subsiding farm input?
Not only is Fisp a clear symbol of an investment in diminishing returns. The entire Fisp thing, which I hate with a passion, is failing to enhance the concept of sustainable development as enshrined in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS).
If it were a sustainable programme, we should not have the same people receiving a coupon every year. The first coupon should have been enough to graduate them into independence. Yet, that is not happening. The same people continue to line up every year; a slight miss on the list throws them into pits of desperation—completely hungry.
Despite the touted short-term food security achieved in yesteryears, Fisp, in the long term, is an environmentally tragic policy that has not just trapped people in a cycle of poverty, but has also made them chattels of ruling elites.
In fact, it is a policy that solidifies the patrimonial politics rife in our system, a ‘father Christmas’ political system where government controls its people through being the sole donor of ‘development.’
That is why when people tout Peter Mutharika as quite an educated man—the only reason, I guess, he qualifies for the presidency—I expect him to be the first to see through these retrogressive elements of Fisp.
I expect the Professor to be the first think-tank, raising critical and radical debates that our rain-fed, hoe-led and small-holder driven agriculture demands.
But what do we get from the highly touted professor of international law? Instead of telling Malawians how he will reinvigorate the Green Belt Initiative (GBI), the professor is promising Malawians that, at a time every commodity price is soaring wildly, his government will reduce even further the K500 price of fertiliser.
Whatever his motive, some of us don’t take that lightly. I know it is possible, using politics not economics as it has always been the case with this post-colonial crop of hollow politicians, for the price of fertiliser to be reduced to as hell as whatever they want.
But at what cost? For people like me, and they are only few of us, who pay huge taxes to government, it all adds up to misery. We will be paying and paying and paying huge taxes whose only visible work is to trap the country in the cycle of tenacious food shortages.
When countries such as Malaysia and Mauritius, who just few years ago were our underdogs, are moving their people out of poverty through investing and attracting investment in industrialisation, here, we are busy investing billions in hoe-led and rain-fed agricultural policies that are failing to even produce enough food for all.
Of course, Peter Mutharika might be the target here. But there are a number of politicians who dance to his tune of economic madness. I have a word for them: Malawi is still a very, very poor country. You do not need the UNDP to publish the 2013 Human Development Report to agree that almost 80 percent live in absolute poverty. Just look at the food situation in the country.
After 49 years of independence, does it make sense for leaders to rate themselves as achievers just because their leadership helped farmers to produce enough maize that is not even value added?
After 49 years, does it make sense that we should still be struggling with the basics such as feeding ourselves?
Let’s listen carefully to the professors and doctors who want to rule us. Through their desperate attempts to get to power, they have created a welfare state that depends on the dwindling goodwill of other people’s money—the donors. This state is making people lazy and wholly dependent on government.