Investment bankers or call them modern day devils, I envy them. Those people in the high-rise offices on Wall Street, the business districts of Singapore, London and Hong Kong deserve it.
They get some obscene bonuses to the extent that left wing groups have on many occasions mobilised themselves to stop such perceived undue fantasy. Maybe they have a point. After all, everyone is entitled to a high quality life but we must earn it as opposed to taking advantage of positions of privilege.
One thing that is ignored is that such individuals are extremely talented and their pay simply reflects their results. Are bankers the best paid? I do not know for sure, but I can attest that even in this country at the end of every March, we frown upon their profits when everyone is struggling. It does not matter whether their huge profits are a result of reckless borrowing by government. It still requires some good strategy to make those billions.
Some of these privileges, obscene they may sound, but are well deserved and are linked to specific target or performance indicators. But any benefit or remuneration system that has hallmarks of unfairness is a recipe for disaster, especially if taxpayer funds are drawn for such a cause. Such unfairness is mostly the reason everyone has that motivation to plunder any kwacha for their personal gain.
But my point is not the banks, because writing about them is a huge exercise. It is not enough for a column, at the minimum, a special issue in a supplement. Like many other taxpayers, I have been following the debate of the last two weeks. The Parliament cars as well as those given to mayors got all of us running. Some clever spinning, but a reminder of how the dichotomy of parliamentary democracy in our country is a constitutional print. At the core of the arguments, for and against, two versions of Goebbels are trying their best to outdo each other. They are the same. Who? I don’t know.
It is all in the business of politics and its mass communication strategy. Maybe I have joined the band wagon and got hoodwinked into it, but I thought it also opened an opportunity for reflections on the public reforms being championed by Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
Like many other citizens, I am concerned about how public services are delivered and, in particular, the wastage of public resources that make Malawi unattractive to foreign investment.
Public finances, tight as they are, have become caught in the privilege philosophy. We need a lot of moral scrutiny and reflect on justifications for certain privileges. It could be the right time that public reforms should consider the broader context remuneration or benefits paid to everyone that earns a living from taxpayer funds. I must recognise that working for the public service is not a voluntary undertaking. Every talent should be rewarded accordingly, just as the private sector does, not exactly the same though.
The moral arguments on the vehicles under debate, spinning included, have on board that as long as one is entitled to something, they must get it no matter the circumstances. That is my reading. I have a few problems though if one looks at the broader picture of all public officers that enjoy a string of benefits. Its moral questions though.
I believe the reforms must start at a much powerful level in the institution that makes laws and approves the national budget. For example, all our elected members of Parliament (MPs) are entitled to soft taxpayer loans well below national inflation. The average taxpayer is not and has to deal with rates of over 35 percent. Malawi had some dozen commercial banks and various credit cooperatives and it should not be the business of government to offer soft loans to elected representatives that are excessively remunerated. But it will always come out. It is in our conditions of service.
Similarly, the pension law seems to have tactfully exempted those that make laws and the Executive. The arguments that pension funds drive investment should resonate very well to the wise lawmakers. That they too, like any other employee, must contribute to their pension and their employer match something similar other than the privileges of wholesome gratuities, unless it is a job of the extremely talented is not rocket science. It is like what they call the 401K plans in the United States (US).
Whether these loans are recovered is a different matter, but if we are to follow some of the arguments floating around, all elected representatives from both divides could have led the way to deprive themselves of certain privileges. The people that elect them or “ironically request them” to switch parties depending on the smell of coffee, are dying of treatable diseases.
Public hospitals pharmacies are empty. I do not think anyone should be given cash equivalent to 300 litres of petrol every month. They should simply prove that they have used 300 litres and claim what exactly they have used otherwise it is just another form of Cashgate. n