Honourable Folks, it’s understandable why JB wants to make us believe her government’s Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) is bearing fruit and will take us out of poverty this year.
The President is aware of the centrality of poverty reduction on the political agenda for Malawi. The ERP is touted, not so much because it has the magic wand to turn around the economy this year or next year—that optimism isn’t shared by many of its champions.
Rather, it has the potential to form the hub around which will revolve economic activities that offer the world differentiated made-in-Malawi goods and services. ERP is man-made nectar to attract the much-needed US dollar, with which we can pay for our imports such as fuel, fertiliser, drugs, raw materials, spare parts and personal provisions for the President.
By urging the nation to join her in celebrating the dawn of economic prosperity through ERP, JB, is simply playing politics. She needs something to show for her 12-month tenancy at the State House, doesn’t she? More so for her campaign message in the run-up to the 2014 tripartite election!
Simply put, she’s playing politics with her eyes trained on the presidency. In other words, touting ERP as a success story when there’s nothing to show for it yet, is sheer propaganda meant to woo the gullible rural majority.
As I said last week, which president hasn’t sold us lies about their success in fulfilling everything they promised us in their manifesto? Dr. Kamuzu Banda declared he had transformed the economy beyond recognition.
Bakili Muluzi claimed he had eradicated poverty. Bingu wa Mutharika declared he had brought about tremendous economic development.
Yet JB claims she inherited a greatly impoverished and highly indebted Malawi from Mutharika. On his part, Mutharika also made a similar claim against Muluzi. Muluzi, too, made a similar claim against Dr. Banda. Who then is fooling who, here?
A more humbling message to the taxpayer is that almost 50 years after independence, over half the Malawian population of 14 million is living in poverty and deprivation with 2.5 million being so terribly poor they can only live on aid.
What’s then is there to celebrate about ERP? Has JB, or anyone in her government, read The Daily Times story on a University of Oxford study which indicates that if we must continue with life as usual, there are 74 more years to go before acute poverty can be eradicated in Malawi?
For much too long, desperation has led our leaders to confuse retrogression with progress, means with an end and event with trend. It all stems from the fear that the electorate want to see “development” before they can re-elect a candidate.
As a result, presidents end up showing roads, hospitals, bridges and other infrastructural developments, funded and closely monitored by donors as proof of their success while in office. I guess JB is touting ERP because there isn’t much time left to build and show off some structure.
It is because our politicians get away with mediocrity that we’ve been a loser nation for the past 50 years and, researchers have warned, if we don’t change the mindset we shall continue languishing in poverty for the next 70 years!
Yet around us and in other parts of Africa, governments are catalysts for wealth generation by the private sector, including direct foreign investment. Africa’s economy is now growing faster than that of the rich West.
Imagine Nigeria which was known for rampant corruption, now being the number one destination for foreign direct investment the whole of Africa! Mozambique, which used to be described as “war-torn” is now the hub of economic growth in the Sadc region!
Rwanda is now proof that with good planning and effective leadership, Africa can excel even in the service industry! Countries that used to depend on oil alone are now using their oil wealth to invest in other sectors to diversify the economic base and ensure the wheels of development keep running way after oil wells have dried up.
I believe we, too, can start rolling from our agricultural base if only development is depoliticised and made and inclusive national agenda.
Let multiparty politics address the issue of who has the best idea on how to reach our common destination faster and in the most cost-effective manner and never on cleaning the slate and starting all over again every time someone new occupies the State House.
Let qualified Malawians take up jobs in government without regard to political affiliations or one’s tribe or region. Allow government to buy supplies at genuine market value from traders who are willing to be subjected to scrutiny and not dish out tenders as a favour to political friends who end up inflating prices for substandard goods as long as the party gets a share of the spoils.
We can’t grow our economy unless we stitch the gawping hole on the side of the national purse through which 30 percent of public revenue is lost every year. ERP will remain an illusion if government continues borrowing heavily from the domestic market, thereby soaring interest rates and choking the private sector.