How time flies! Malawi will tomorrow, July 6 2012, celebrate 48 years of independence from its former colonial master, Britain.
They say life begins at 40 and at 48, surely, one should have come of age and stand on their feet!
In 48 years of political (and economic?) independence, Malawi has had four presidents from Hastings Kamuzu Banda (deceased) and his 30 years of one-party rule to the first multiparty president Bakili Muluzi followed by the late Bingu wa Mutharika and now Joyce Banda, the first woman to lead the country and only the second female President in Africa.
Now, 48 years is a long way. Perhaps, with the low-key celebrations this year marked only by prayers and a friendly football match against Zambia, it is time to reflect on the past and chart a realistic way forward as we pop the champagne.
I have raised the following questions before and I will raise them again today. For example, why do we, as a country, still depend on taxpayers in developed nations to run most of our affairs, especially in terms of the development budget? Somehow, last year we made an attempt to finance even our recurrent expenditures with local resources through the zero-deficit budget, a concept since abandoned.
Forty-eight years later, and counting, I also believe it is high time we added value to most of our raw agricultural products to earn more foreign exchange from international trade.
We should move holistically into manufacturing if we are to realise the dream of transforming our economy into one that produces and exports. Indeed, we are still struggling to provide power all day, everyday to run businesses and the economy in general efficiently.
Most of the challenges facing the country, especially on the economic front, have come against a background of several prescriptions from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Despite all this, Malawi as a country has lagged behind other countries such as Mauritius with whom it was on equal footing, in terms of growth, in the 1960s. What went wrong? Did the economic “doctors” give wrong prescriptions or did the “patient” not follow instructions in swallowing the medicine?
There is need to do an honest soul-searching of where we are coming from and where we want or aspire to be in the shortterm, mediumterm and longterm. In making such reflections, it is important to put politics in the back seat.
Wishing all patriotic Malawians happy independence anniversary celebrations!