Of 25-hour load-shedding and 2017 realities

Hon. Folks, 25-hour electricity load-shedding is a new reality that made 2017 conspicuous. It has never been this bad in Malawi ever since we became an independent sovereign State in1964.

Is there hope for respite in 2018? The APM administration says so but these folks have a reputation for flying kites in our faces. They just might be taking us for fools.

Already they have pulled a fast one on generators meant to add 50 megawatts (MW) to the national grid. They were to be here this month, where are they?

A government which takes a third of our salaries as tax left a power crisis with far-reaching socio-economic consequences to Divine intervention. Our respite—if what we have seen since December 25 is there to last—is solely due to the rains that God has graciously provided us in due season.

The lie about generators as a short-term solution to power crisis started either in the first or second quarter of the year. Ministers, technocrats and even APM himself all pretended to care a about our plight.

Our wives, mothers and sisters have camped at maize mills for days; our sons and daughters who, after combing the job market for years to avail, sold the last animal there was in the khola to start a small business—welding shop, butchery, beauty salon, barber shop, e-commerce, etc—ended up exactly where they started from,  broke and broken.

Government is indifferent to all this because, although warm-blooded humans are suffering, the gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection for 2017/18 fiscal year is at no less than 5 percent even after factoring in the prolonged blackouts.

Could this explain why the so-called equitable load-shedding affected big industry—government’s tax cash cow—in a measured way (two predetermined days in a week) while small businesses run by ordinary Malawians trying to flee from the poverty were carelessly given 8 hours of electricity in two days?

The raw deal government has given the informal sector—the business springboard for the unbankable who raise small capital through ‘banki m’khonde’—is not much different from what it has done to small and medium enterprises.

These were contracted to supply government with goods and services. They had to borrow money from the banks at a huge cost largely due to government’s massive borrowing on the domestic money market.

Yet for reasons again best known to government itself, it delayed payment for the suppliers for months, if not years. Three years ago government arrears were as high as K157 billion! Nobody in this predatory government cared to know the fate of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) they short changed.

Which reminds me of another new reality for 2017—the deliberate (at least that’s how it appears to me) government move to saturate the domestic market with maize as a means of containing inflation.

Government exaggerated the magnitude of hunger of the yesteryear, claiming that nearly half the population was so badly hit by a combination of floods and drought that they needed food relief.

Donors came in with massive support. Corrupt folks in government capitalised on the frenzy, flouting laid down procurement procedures on the pretext of fast tracking the procurement of the much needed maize in order to save life.

In the end, there was so much maize on the market that farmers had no choice but to sell their surplus for this year at below production costs.

While the small farmer was crying over the exploitation, government was all smiles because, thanks to the abundance of maize, inflation has been brought to single digit. In its Machiavellian reason, the end justifies the means.

Will 2018 be any different? No! Exploitation is the reason why the poor are getting poorer when the rich few are getting richer. Exploitation is also the reason why our leaders are enjoying expensive lives at the expense of a nation ranked the poorest by GDP per capita.

Exploitation is also the reason why our human development index (HDI) rating is among the lowest in the world. The rich politicians are oblivious to the fact that more and more Malawians are tripping into the cycle of abject poverty.

For us to get out of this mess we’re forced into, our leaders must know that stepping on our toes is crossing the red line and we’ll meet on the street. Our Constitution allows it.

Lastly, let’s pray for Public Affairs Committee (PAC) before it’s leaders are all bought with lucrative positions in parastatal boards. Happy New Year hardworking and law -abiding Malawians!

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