With less than four months to go to the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections when Malawians will elect their president, members of Parliament (MPs) and ward councillors, the political temperature is rapidly rising.
No day passes without party X or Y making a statement or addressing a campaign rally disguised as “development rally” or mere “stop-overs” or indeed a forum “to meet people”. This the parties are doing because under the electoral laws aspirants can only officially canvass for support during the prescribed period of 60 days to the election day.
However, from the sneak preview of the messages being put across by the major players on the political arena at the moment, except the People’s Progressive Movement (PPM) which unveiled a 20-point action plan, there seem to be no substance from the majority.
Critical issues affecting Malawians are being tackled in abstract terms as the players are busy trying to outdo each other in verbally attacking their opponents. Ironically, in November 2012 after the reelection of Barak Obama to the presidency of the United States of America, nearly all our political parties claimed to “have learnt a lot”, especially in terms of “issue-based” campaign.
Management of the economy is one critical issue Malawians want to get concrete answers for from political parties and their leaders.
Politics and economics are intertwined such that they ought to be fixed simultaneously. There is a very thin line separating the two; hence, they say good economics make good politics.
It is not enough to stand on the podium and simply say: “We will fix the economy.” Malawians want to be told how that will be done.
President Joyce Banda and her People’s Party administration have come under fire from some sections of society for introducing “painful reforms” that has increased the cost of living for Malawians, pushing most basic needs beyond their reach.
Of course, typical of politicians, Banda blamed her predecessor’s administration for the “economic mess”. Two weeks ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a loan of $20 million (about K9 billion) under the Enhanced Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement. Effectively this showed some level of “confidence” in the measures on the ground to resuscitate the economy but, at the end of the day, the real benefit can only be appreciated if the gains translate into improving lives of ordinary Malawians.
I feel our leaders can learn from Rwandan president Paul Kagame whose country was virtually brought to a standstill by genocide in the mid 1990s yet is today an example of shining stars in terms of development.
In one of his addresses, Kagame demonstrated that he appreciates the link between politics and economics beyond talking about bonya and dairy cattle at political rallies.
Kagame is quoted as having said: “In Rwanda, we understand that politics and economics go hand in hand and we have made a conscious and deliberate choice of inclusive development based on our political reality. By and large, those choices have produced positive results. Growth has been consistent and poverty levels considerably reduced like in the last five years by 25 percent— from 56.9 percent to 44 percent of dependency. The important factors that led to this have been ownership of programmes, citizen participation, a high degree of accountability, effective cooperation with development partners and the building of strong institutions.”
Key words on Kagame’s statement include “inclusive development based on our political reality”, “ownership of programmes”, “citizen participation” and “a high degree of accountability”.
I dare say in Malawi many of these factors are lacking. Policies are drawn in boardrooms by few technocrats and, in some cases, imported from elsewhere having been imposed on us by some of our development partners. Such “one-size-fit-all” strategies rarely produce desirable results.
This is the time for those seeking to “lead” Malawians from May 20 to engage the voters on what needs to be done to improve their welfare, their economy not wasting time on petty politicking.