Hon. Folks, when APM took to the mic last December, addressing the public through MBC radio and TV, he was upbeat with his strategy on the economy, saying it was on course in weaning Malawi from donor aid.
But when he took to the mic again on Monday, he was downbeat, literally subdued and humbled. Mid way through his five-year term of office, the economy isn’t growing. Rather, it’s a faulty plane heading for a catastrophic crash.
What’s growing instead is the population of the famished—6.7 million lives solely dependent on food aid as the total number of food-insecure Malawians grow to 8.4 million, half the entire population.
Electricity and water are as scarce on APM’s watch as fuel and forex were on his late brother Bingu’s watch. Public universities are shutting down one by one as both students and their lecturers, disgruntled with the status quo, itch for a showdown with a system that’s failing them.
The rest of us are mostly unhappy as well—saddled with more taxes on dwindling incomes getting, in return, public service delivery that’s getting worse by the day. Journalists on their part, see in APM as much of a media bully as Mr. Donald Trump in the US.
There’s no denying that adverse climatic conditions have contributed to our woes but my take is that much of our suffering is self-inflicted, a result of mediocrity. APM seems to be aware of this hence, his attempt in his latest address to the nation at blaming at least three ills rocking our economy—Cashgate, empty coffers and water and electricity shortages—on his predecessors.
That may be true but equally true—if not more so—in my opinion, is that APM’s own government is doing no better than any of those past flops. It even lacks the agility of the Bingu regime or the charisma of all the past regimes. It doesn’t have friends!
The question that sends shivers down the spine is what another regime flop would mean to our democracy and economy: will people go out and vote in future if all there’s to show for putting some people in power is arrogance, corruption, patronage and living a wasteful lifestyle amid growing poverty?
Will investors ever think of our economy if, despite being landlocked and extremely poor with dilapidated infrastructure, we can’t even guarantee the availability of the basic amenities—water and electricity?
There isn’t much time remaining for APM to deliver on the many campaign pledges (Weekend Nation, 19 Nov. 2016) he made in the run-up to the 2014 elections but there are certain things he can do to start the ball rolling. One of them is reducing waste in government.
It’s estimated that corruption costs government up to 30 percent of its revenue every year. The real cost is much higher—loss of donor confidence in our economy which resulted a freeze in budgetary support in 2013 and our country courting a very bad name abroad which affected our creditworthiness and that aggravates our case for failing to attract much foreign investment.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau currently has a serious image problem and the President knows it but is doing nothing about it and politics of patronage gives the corrupt in government a sense that they are secure in the armpits of the President as long as they give him unflinching loyalty in return. John Magufuli of Tanzania dealt with that, so too Paul Kagame of Rwanda. They are reaping the fruit of their pragmatic leadership.
Mutharika can also learn one or two lessons on frugality from these more successful colleagues of his. The other day BBC wrote about Kagame personally driving a fellow head of State to the airport at the end of a State visit. On his part Magufuli has ever flown economy. Compare that with the wasteful lifestyle in government here which hasn’t changed an iota since the days of Kamuzu!