Malawi has been subjected to a number of economic doses with an aim of improving its deteriorating status. Perhaps it is God’s grace that is still keeping us alive, because some of the doses would have killed the country long before the prescription of the current noxious drug-Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).
In an attempt to attain its own economic supremacy any political party that comes into power tends to discard all previous economic policies and adopt new ones though incomprehensible even to the proponents themselves. This has consequently, turned Malawi into an economic laboratory for both amateurs and professionals whose results have often been absolute poverty, inflation and scarcity of basic commodities.
History has it that some countries in Asia; Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan (Popularly known as Asian tigers) had been in poverty before but through constant industrialisation and specialisation they dug themselves out of poverty into economic models for many developing countries. Though the general conditions for their growth may not be applicable to many developing countries, they indisputably helped these tigers carve a way through to sustained economic growth. They demonstrated that fiscal discipline coupled with political will were essential catalysts for growth.
After the fall of one party regime in Malawi, there has never been a time when the country enjoyed sustained economic growth except during the first term of late professor Bingu wa Mutharika. Economic growth shot to about 8.3 percent, making it the fastest growing economy in Africa and second fastest growing in the world (Mireles, 2009). This was slightly above the 7 percent experienced by the Asian tigers during economic reforms. However, the glory was short-lived as the economy crumbled; quickly turning the country into the land of shortages and queues. Though the honourable professor had brilliant economic ideas, his political intolerance imbrued his economic excellence.
In an attempt to resuscitate our economy the current leadership of Madam Joyce Banda laid down completely new economic policies by the name of ERP. Whether consultations were made or not the government felt that the economy could be revived within 18 months by focusing on mining, agriculture, tourism, infrastructural development and energy as priority areas. How fast time elapses? Several months have gone by since the launch of ERP, yet nothing of those priorities has taken shape. Despite the alarm by renowned economists at the ambiguity of the policy, the government was confident that it was on the right track. However, as the year 2014 draws nearer and nearer, the government seems to lose hope at every step it takes-seeking as many views as possible to help it recover quickly, perhaps before May 2014.
Governments come and go, yet no leader has gambled to invest heavily in agribusiness and technical education. As such economic growth that Malawi experiences is not often sustainable. I strongly believe that these two areas are key to the country’s hidden treasure.
With increased number of graduates, the unemployment rate continue to skyrocket to alarming levels. Paradoxically, our government continues to lose interest in developing technical colleges, institutions that have capacity to train people who can engage in productive self-employment. As if that is not enough, there is a long waiting list of prospective university candidates stranded at the entrance gate, waiting to be offered the same inappropriate education. They are students who are brainwashed that the only way to success is through our few, scrambled university colleges. Politically, our leaders continue to bubble that they will increase university spaces for these candidates.
However, what the country needs as headway in socio-economic development is improved technical colleges. With probable increased demand for tertiary education, the government can introduce rural vocation (technical) training centres to serve country youths right in their localities and also reduce the costs of boarding facilities. Through the Ministry of Education, the government can make arrangements to certify their graduates to give meaning to the training. Suffice to say that the country has already enough trained personnel in this sector. They are misallocated in various secondary schools across the country. If properly handled, this would not only reduce unemployment but also achieve economic growth by increasing the country’s tax base.