Dust is now settling down on the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections with the declaration of the winners, notably the President and 192 members of Parliament (MPs) in the 193-seat National Assembly.
My congratulations to President Peter Mutharika on the re-election for a second five-year term of office and Vice-President Everton Chimulirenji on the ascendancy to the country’s second highest office.
More hearty congratulations to all candidates, including some personal friends too numerous to mention, who have made it to Parliament and the Local Government wards.
The elections and the subsequent tension that engulfed the release of the official results, especially in the presidential race, grounded business to a halt as entrepreneurs and customers alike took a wait-and-see approach.
Now that the election fever is waning, it is my humble plea that people should get back to their respective endeavours to earn a living while contributing to the public revenue pulse.
To the political leaders, notably the President, there were mixed fortunes during the first term of office. While the economy generally stabilised and impressive statistics were achieved in terms of inflation and interest rates, sustainable growth tended to elude the country largely because of exogenous factors, including unpredictable weather that affected output in the predominantly agro-economy.
In the past five years, Malawi continued to struggle to provide reliable power supply to domestic and commercial consumers. Reliable power supply has a direct connection with the business environment. Infrastructure, utilities, access to finance, the legal framework and cost of labour are some factors potential investors consider when deciding investment destinations.
Malawi continues to face challenges that include rising public debt levels at K3.3 trillion, a weak export base leading to negative trade balance against our international trade partners, high population growth rate with the population pegged at 17.5 million and adverse and unpredictable weather risks.
With elections gone, it is now time to move on as the President briefly put it in his acceptance speech after taking the oath of office on Tuesday.
By moving on, my plea to the governing clique is that it should mean getting down to work, hitting the ground running and not continuing with the election campaign mode as we have seen over the years. There is a time for campaign, which is allocated a prescribed 60 days prior to polling day in the electoral calendar. There is time to work on delivering promises as articulated in election manifestos.
Malawians need economic opportunities that will empower them to independence. Such opportunities include jobs and business skills and capital.
To the in-coming legislators, there is no honeymoon. You will find a lot of unfinished business in your tray. To succeed in your job as representatives of the people, put the interests of your constituents and the nation first. Most of your predecessors who prioritised political party interests have fallen by the way side.
Given that there has not been a change of guard at Capital Hill, I do not expect in the way things were done, especially on the economic management front.
It will be critical to consolidate the gains made in the past five years, especially at macro-economic level. At all costs, avoid implementing policies on a trial-and-error basis, that is experimenting with people’s lives.
Moving forward, leaders should strive to put in place policies that will economically empower the masses. People should be taught how to fish to make them “eat fish all their life” as opposed to giving them fish every day by way of handouts. Handouts tend to perpetuate begging.
In the next five years and beyond, Malawi should strive to create more jobs by facilitating an enabling environment for increased foreign direct investment (FDI) or indeed stimulating the local manufacturing industry.
May we, as a country, do business unusual in the next five years and beyond.