If you are reading this piece, then surely, you are among those people God has favoured to make it into the New Year 2015. Happy New Year!
This being my first entry in the New Year, I will briefly look at happenings of the year we bid goodbye to yesterday and raise expectations for the New Year ahead of us.
On the positive front, the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc) established the one-stop investment and trade centre to cut on redtape that worsened the business environment.
Excessive bureaucracy does exist and at a very shocking level for that matter. Talking about redtape, what quickly comes to mind is how Japanese tobacco firm JTI Leaf (Malawi) Limited was made to wait from 2010 or thereabouts for its application to set up a cigarette manufacturing plant to be processed.
It baffles everyone’s imagination to learn that JTI Leaf (Malawi) Limited, formerly Africa Leaf, wrote and submitted an investment proposal to the Malawi Government in October 2010 following government’s interest to have the firm set up a cigarette manufacturing factory.
In the developed and civilised communities, officers responsible for such a laissez-faire attitude to doing business could, by now, have been disciplined. They do not inspire confidence at all. Such conduct is also tantamount to lack of patriotism.
In general terms, the business environment did not improve much. The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2014/15 Competitiveness Report poorly rated our country due to poor or low access to finance and corruption.
Fuel pump prices continued to soar despite one or two reliefs in form of short-lived price reductions. We started the year with petrol prices at K760 per litre, diesel at K770 per litre but closed yesterday with petrol selling at K856.70, diesel at K865.90.
Fuel prices have cost-push effects on other commodity prices, hence the cost of living soared.
During the year, Malawians hired a new President in the name of Peter Mutharika, the Vice-President Saulos Chilima, 193 members of Parliament (MPs) and 462 ward councillors to run and manage the affairs of the State.
The public officers have been in office for six months now, but people’s expectations are very high. The ball is in their court to deliver on improved economics, business environment and infrastructure development in general. They say good politics makes good economics.
The Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom), another player whose inefficiencies derailed development strides as new investors, especially in the mining sector could not roll out due to inadequate generation capacity, made some improvements in terms of reliability of supply. It may not have been 100 percent, but it was better than in previous years.
However, the thorn in the flesh has been Blantyre Water Board (BWB) whose “shortcuts” or lack of investment in infrastructure to match growing demand over the years was exposed.
Nowadays, it is something next to a miracle to many a BWB consumer to have running water from their pipes. In fact, like it used to be the case during Escom’s unreliable power supply days of “here tonight, there tomorrow“, water consumers are tempted to call the BWB faults office whenever they have uninterrupted water supply as that could mean a “fault” in their area.
It has always been my expectation to, one day, wake up in a Malawi where the public sector delivers efficient service and the private sector is given the right environment.
Malawi can only develop if we start doing things differently, not trading excuses to justify failure and inefficiency.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year 2015!