Hard times in Malawi

These are hard times for Malawi economically more than anything else. The main macro-economic indicators are going the wrong direction. Inflation, unemployment and interest rates are going upwards while gross domestic product (GDP) is going downwards. We are in the midst of tough times.

Individuals who have made success of their lives have believed in motivational slogans that have provided them with visions. Without vision, individuals and nations perish.

“Tough times do not last, tough people do,” thus wrote an American pastor who is dedicated at motivating people into self improvement. Are we a tough nation? If so, when tough times cease, we shall begin prospering. The people of Rwanda have known harder tragedies, but now they are among the most admired nations in Africa thanks to symmetry between the leadership and the people.

 “When a business faces hard times, that is the time the seasoned businessperson works hardest,” wrote J Paul Getty, America’s billionaire before he died in 1976.

Derogatory things continue to be said about our country. The latest is that even fellow African countries, which at one time looked like basket cases, are now doing better than Malawi not just economically but even in matters of governance. Must we throw up our arms and say what is the use of trying harder? Such pessimism must evaporate from our minds. Let us not tell people what we can do because we will only invite scoffing. Let us get going with the job before us. Mauritius, Singapore and Rwanda are smaller countries than Malawi. They have overcome their handicaps. Why have we not and why can we not?

We must be willing to listen to what people of goodwill are saying about us negative though it may be. We must have a second look at our institutions. Are they the type through which economic development and prosperity can take place? Do we have the will power for success? Only by flying with the eagles can we tell if we are flying fast and high enough.

There are those who say it is wrong for Africans to try and emulate the Tigers of the Far East, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, because these countries developed under one-man dictatorships unless we want to revert to the now discredited life-time presidencies.

It requires more than having a one-party regime and a life presidency to launch successful development plans. There must be the supporting culture and philosophy. When the Peoples Republic of China was under one-man dictatorship of Mao Zedong, it was not a star performer economically. After the death of the chairperson, the people of China opted for two-term presidencies such as we have. Despite current slowdowns, China has become an economic giant, a lender rather than a borrower.

Since the end of World War II, Japan had so many governments and prime ministers that to remember even a quarter of them is difficult. Despite apparent Cabinet instabilities, Japan grew from ashes of Hiroshima to become the third largest economy in recent years.

We do not need to revert to one-man dictatorship to speed up growth rates of our countries. We only need to copy certain elements of culture and philosophy of the countries that have raised themselves from third world poverty to first world prosperity.

Let us organise ourselves for success. Leaders who hold positions constitutionally are entitled to respect so long as they are honestly trying to develop the country and improve our lives. With the meager resources they are working with, we should not expect miracles. As a nation, let us not ask our leaders what is beyond their power to provide but ask ourselves what we can do for the good of our country.

Inflation, budget deficits and interest rates will not go down so long as some segments of our society continue to press for higher pay even when they are not facing starvation. The Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development keeps on contracting public debts to appease pressure groups because the tax regime does not yield enough. How much milk can a scrawny cow yield?

 Appeals to the people to tolerate austerity measures will fall on deaf ears when the people of Malawi like the people of Abunturika see that their leaders are flaunting about their wealth.

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