Footnote to APM’s New Year speech

Hon. Folks, APM’s New Year address was a bagful of 2018 promises. He pledged to transform the Lower Shire with Greenbelt revolution besides putting additional 27 000 hectares to irrigation at a total cost of about K250 billion!

He also pledged a permanent solution to electricity blackouts in 2018, blaming the current long spells of load-shedding on the negligence of his predecessors.

Aren’t the Greenbelt and irrigation pledges a grooved record that’s no longer amusing to the ear? We started hearing about them back in the days of Bingu, APM’s brother.

In fact, over K7 billion has already been borrowed externally and squandered on tractors, motorised water pumps and other types of machinery which have ended  up being “sold” for a song to opportunists, well-connected to government or the governing party.

Yet, APM government will push that loan plus interest on it to the taxpayer! Does APM intend to borrow more for the same programmes at our expense? If that is not a mark of inefficiency, what is?

Pity that the same APM government has made Malawians foot the bill for an unsecured K6 billion loan which the late Bingu’s government gave to cronies and party loyalists through the then government-owned MSB bank.

Up to now, not a single tambala has been recovered from the people who built personal business empires with that money and government is quiet about it as long as the bad loans were detoxified and the bank itself sold.

As for electricity, yes indeed, it’s time there was a permanent solution but so far the touted generators, meant to add 50 megawatts to the grid by end December, 2017 are nowhere to be seen and it appears APM forgot to explain in his speech where we are with the much touted interim measure.

Or could it be that government has let the rains take care of interim measures to avert the costs of hiring, transporting and running the generators which some commentators have described as prohibitive?

But how can money be a problem to a government which has made another expensive pledge to provide 500 villages across the country access to free satellite television?

By the way, which villages are these and what TV programmes will they have access  to at the expense of the tax-payer? I just hope if it’s meant to reach out to voters with campaign messages through MBC TV, then everything shall be done to ensure that all candidates, especially in the presidential race, have equitable access.

It’d be “rigging” of tragic proportions if taxpayer’s money is used to give only the governing DPP the monopoly of reaching out to the electorate with its propaganda messages through the State-run electronic media house.

Malawians have the right to hear what all people vying for the State House would do and how if elected. That way, the voters would be empowered with adequate information to enable them to make informed choices with their ballot papers in 2019.

Unfortunately, the team that constitutes DPP think-tank now is the same team that has always messed us up since the days of Bakili Muluzi, hence the fear that the TV project may turn out  to be a curse instead of a blessing to the village folks and the rest of us.

Some of APM’s key political mentors don’t ascribe to the principle of separating party and government business. I bet it’s not beyond them to see such a free access to TV by the rural folks as an opportunity to relay only positive messages about DPP and only negative messages, if any, about the opposition.

On the economy, APM was spot on regarding the stabilisation of the kwacha and the rolling down of both inflation and interest rates. The challenge is in making this a rule and not an exception to the rule. How can the stability be sustained so it trickles down to impoverished Malawians? I missed that part if it was articulated at all.

But what isn’t true about the economy is the arrogant claim that we are managing without donor aid.

The truth is that many donors stopped giving us direct budgetary support. They were nauseated by the rampant fraud and corruption which made them liken government’s Account Number One to a “leaking bucket.”

Only a mad person would try to fill such a bucket by pouring in more water. But aid flows into the country. It doesn’t only help government implement its social and developmental agenda but it also is a major source of foreign exchange without which this consumer economy which largely depends on exporting tobacco, would once again be reduced to “zigubu” economy of Bingu’s disastrous second term.

It also doesn’t help government’s image for the President to insist that Cashgate was a Joyce Banda problem when audit has shown that massive pilferage of public funds was rampant even when Bingu was at the helm of a government in which APM’s himself served as a Cabinet minister from 2009.

What most law-abiding Malawians would probably like to hear is an out-of-the-box strategy for making the zero tolerance for corruption policy work.

Otherwise, not only is corruption rampant but it’s now on your watch that Malawi–the poorest country by GDP per capita –is still losing more than 30 per cent of its revenue. Could it be that your government is clue-less on how to effectively and decisively fight corruption?

Trust me, that’s probably a major reason some tax-payers may be looking for an alternative leader. n

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