Here is a case study of how MCC, using a scorecard, has measured progress in governance and respect for human rights between two neighbouring states in the Sadc region, which changed to a multiparty system of government peacefully about the same time.
Simply put: By MCC standards, democratic Malawi under the Mutharika administration has failed while democratic Zambia is on course.
But Zambia is not the only neighbouring country that is doing well where we are failing. As early as 2007, Mozambiqueâ€”a neighbour with a painful past of prolonged civil strife and natural disastersâ€”qualified for a compact of 506.9 million USD and Tanzania, our neighbour up North qualified for a compact of 698 million USD in 2008.
The case of Malawi is particularly depressing. Our compact was signed for between the government and the US through MCC in April, 2011. Three months later, in July, was placed on â€œoperational holdâ€ after agents of the State used excessive force against demonstrations on July 20, killing 20 people in the process.
Since good democratic governanceâ€”not forcing on us alien culture such as legalising gay marriage, as the President claimsâ€”is the condition for MCC grants, the folks in US expected that the country would improve on its governance record, especially in the light of the global condemnation of how the State handled the July 20 demonstrations.
Yet, the government did not relent. The crusade to fight and humiliate the media, civil society organisations and politicians in the opposition seem to be the agenda of Mutharikaâ€™s second term.
We are told we have no mandate as media to question the actions of a government that rose on an unprecedented three million votes. Talk about power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!
Thank heaven Malawians are not stupid. While Mutharika insists that we should measure the effectiveness of his administration by the old song of fertiliser subsidy, the introduction of free ARVs and infrastructural development, the voice of disenchantment is getting louder and louder by the day.
While obviously in public, the President would pretend all is well, he cannot ignore the fact that leaders representing various sectorsâ€”except chiefs who are highly rewarded so they can serve the government of the dayâ€”met at Limbe Cathedral recently against all odds and bluntly challenged the President to step aside or call for a referendum if he believes Malawians are still with him on the direction he has taken our country.
As I have argued before, there is no short cut to our economic independence. Zero-deficit budget per se, nice though it may sound to the psyche of political arrogance, will not take us there. Instead, it will only help us nationalise excruciating poverty as we have already seen jobs being lost, companies downsizing, cost of living going up and government demanding more and more taxes while the quality of service delivery is deteriorating by the day.
Our neighbours are benefiting as muchâ€”if not more than usâ€”from China, the darling country which gives us aid without strings attached. In Zambia, the Chinese have made heavy investment in the Copper Belt.
Yet Zambia, unlike Malawi, sees the prudence of not just keeping Chinese-collar jackets only in its wardrobe. The same is true of Mozambique. It has China to look to. It also has Russia, Cuba and South Africa. But all that did not stop Mozambique from embracing the Commonwealth despite that it was never been a British colony or protectorate.
Why? Development is not just a function of prudent management of revenue. Its bedrock is the countryâ€™s capacity to generate wealth. Here is where clever African leaders see aid, together with foreign direct investment, tourism and other means of transferring the hard currency from affluent to developing countries as crucial.
Given that there are many countries in the world requiring aid and FDI, I believe an Economic Engineer should be the first to realise that and treat aid and FDI as delicate chinaware to be handled with care.