Sona: attempt at self-validation?

Hon. Folks, my thoughts are still on the Sona (State of the Nation Address) presented in Parliament on Friday last week. It struck me more as APM’s tool for self validation than an honest encapsulation of the state we are in.

Probably that’s quite understandable in a year of elections, especially after voters proved in 2014 their readiness to kick mediocrity in the teeth. They dumped JB then and they could dump APM in 2019 if they rate him a flop.

That kind of rating would be a song to the ears on MCP which has warmed the opposition benches since 1994. No wonder MCP Lazarus Chakwera’s reaction was razor-sharp, disputing all DPP’s claimed achievements and writing off, in the same breath, the possibility that anything good can come out of this government if APM’s tenure is renewed.

Chakwera argued in reaction to the Sona: “only a fool would believe that the good old pillars in this government can turn a disease into a cure for their own failed leadership and only a fool would believe that the young soulless agitators in this government can turn a disease into a cure for our failing economy.”

To be honest, APM was right on economic stability-single digit inflation, reduction of interest rates and shored up foreign exchange reserves (although the claim that we have enough reserves for 6 month claim is questionable).

But we’ve been there before when his late elder brother, Bingu, was the helm but we tripped, landed head-on with a bump. The problem with APM is that, despite the excruciating pain we are experiencing, he wants us to believe him by faith that the worst is over.

APM hasn’t only boasted about economic stability but has gone to the extent of declaring that the economy is on the rebound.

In a speech at the opening of the 47th Session of Parliament on 10 November, 2017 themed ‘Rising above macroeconomic stability’  APM made a wild claim that economic growth rate for 2017 would be higher than the projected 5.5 percent, adding: “In fact, the rate of growth could be the highest in the Sadc region.”

In the Sona of last week, the GDP projection was brought down to 4 percent. Shall we still be the highest growing economy in Sadc? APM omitted that point in the Sona but that isn’t as much of a problem as is the terribly off-the-mark forecasting of economic growth in the past two years.

In 2015/16 fiscal year, the economy was projected to grow by 7 percent. In reality only grew by 2.8 percent. In 2016/17, the projected growth rate was 6.1 percent but the economy only grew by a meagre 2.5 percent.

The President also appears to deliberately avoid looking at that paltry GDP growth rate in the context of the upward population growth trajectory. According to the National Statistical Office, the population was estimated at 16.3 million in 2015, 16.8 million in 2016 and 17.3 million in 2017. In 2018, the population is estimated at 17.9 million!

Does it come as a surprise that when measured in GDP per capita, Malawi is rated the poorest in the world?

Besides, 6 million of our people are food-insecure, perennially surviving on relief handouts, food for work or cash transfers. This happens despite government investing in the costly farm input subsidy programme which targets 900,000 subsistent farmers!

Rather than acknowledging the growing poverty and how government has intervened to alleviate the misery of growing number of those who can’t feed themselves, APM argued in the Sona that living standards have improved in the past four years, really?

In fact, he based his argument on the prevalence of reconditioned vehicles and cheap motor bikes bought from Mozambique at a value less than that of a good mountain bike!

On corruption, while Transparency International, Afrobarometer and whoever else has measured corruption levels in Malawi comes to same conclusion that it is getting worse with time, APM is in denial.

In his 10th November speech, he bashed how media was reporting on corruption in Malawi, saying those who said corruption was getting worse on his watch were “political activists masquerading as journalists.”

In the Sona, he only claimed to have increased funding for ACB and alluded to the trial of DPP Vice President South George Chaponda as proof that government doesn’t shield anyone suspected of indulging in corruption.

But hold it, what did it take for APM to throw Chaponda under the bus?  Two expensive probes by the Executive and Legislature coupled with mounting pressure from the civil society! ACB simply reacted.  Malawi needs an ACB that acts, not reacts, without fear or favour.

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