Some tell us Malawi is a failed State, others say Malawi is sinking. People who exude such jeremiads either do not know that Malawi has been through such hardships before or they do not seem to know we are not the only country suffering from these multiple hardships.
The New Africa magazine of December 2011 has a special report on TanzaniaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 50th anniversary of its independence. Some of the problems our neighbours are going through seem identical with ours. Thus goes part of the report.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This year 2011 has been a particularly difficult year for Tanzania and difficulties have been worsened by the economic turmoil in Europe, the current high oil prices and seemingly perennial problems of shortage of electricity at home.Ã¢â‚¬Â
On November 18 2011 we were told president Jakaya Kikwete in a broadcast explained how TanzaniansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ difficulties had been worsened by the current debt crisis in Europe. Ã¢â‚¬Å“These countries are major importers of goods from us. They are the ones to invest in our tourism and industries, and we also buy industrial goods from them. So what happens there affects us here too.Ã¢â‚¬Â
We learn that in Tanzania inflation has risen from 4.2 percent in October 2010 to 17.9 percent in October 2011. During this period inflation in Malawi did not rise to double digits. If I remember though with another devaluation if implemented Malawi could face the same level of inflation.
As in Malawi so in Tanzania electricity supply does not match the demand and is being rationed. This has been going on for several years. Consequently, some companies especially small ones have experienced declines in profits while others have actually closed. A very familiar situation!
According to Raymond Mbilinyi, the acting director of the Tanzania Investment Centre, Ã¢â‚¬Å“an enabling legislation and institutional framework is now in place to allow the private sector to engage in electricity generation, transmission and distribution.Ã¢â‚¬Â Is this not of interest to us?
This report has been cited to highlight the fact that President Bingu wa Mutharika and his government are not wholly to blame for the hardships found in Malawi today. Some of these are spillover of the economic hardships Europe and America are facing at the moment; they are part of the global problems. To solve them requires concerted and cooperative action between those countries that are in difficulties and those that are better off. Both the European Union and the United States are appealing to China and the Tigers of the Far East to spend more of their wealth on America and European exports.
In trying to solve our problems let us avoid the language of panic, sensationalism and hysteria. Technocrats and policy makers should sit down, calmly analyse the nature and gravity of our problems. They will realise that the forex and oil problems are faces of one coin. To solve the forex problem, the oil problem also is solved.
The forex problem is both short term and long term. In the short term, we persuade donors to give us a helping hand now that our President has positively dealt with the governance questions. The onus is mostly on our well-wishers. How much more do we need to do? Those who say the DPP Government should resign should tell us what methods they will use to persuade donors to release the funds they are withholding.
The long term forex question will involve diversifying our exports to Europe, America and elsewhere in the world. You cannot do this with a strike of the pen. We need to organise ourselves. There should be an institution staffed with technocrats under the supervision of policy makers.
Dire as the present situation is, let us remember that tough times do not last, but tough people do. Are we tough or soft? Whenever your mind is saturated with pessimism, you are on the road to failure because you do not put much zeal and energy into the task at hand.
Those who are saying Malawi is sinking or is a failed State are cowards who shrink from the problems. In Ngoni there is a proverb Ã¢â‚¬Å“Isahluli inyathi IjamileÃ¢â‚¬Â, the conqueror of a buffalo stood firm and unshakable. Behind our elected President let us stand firm. Patience, not panic, removes an obstacle.