From Unga with intrigues

Hon Folks, APM’s 2018 United Nations General Assembly (Unga) trip is harder to measure for its merit than it is for its intrigues.

Surely the team of his spin doctors must have worked long, long hours to capture all the nuances into one good pack that could help make APM sell in these campaign times as world class leader with no match on the local scene.

Who in their right mind among us can throw away a leader who stood before the UN Genral Assembly and delivered a speech that was rated the best by the UN itself? As the wise old folks cautioned, that would be throwing away the baby together with bath water, wouldn’t it?

But hold it: who at the UN did the rating of APM’s speech? Was it the Secretary General? Was it someone who speaks for the global organisation? Nope, it was attributed solely to the website news.un.org! The website has its own editorial staff yet the story doesn’t attribute the rating to them either. Instead, it says the UN “declared” on its website.

Not only that. It also added: “The speech has resonated around the world and is among the most referenced in the global online publications.”  If this isn’t desperation, what is?

Then there was the speech at Washington University in St. Louis in which APM reportedly condemns colonialism and aid as “organised systems meant to cripple Africa.” Are we supposed to applaud, really?

Here we are being told by Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development that unless World Bank releases a K60 billion bailout to the recurrent budget, government will have no choice but to dismantle the 2018/19 National Budget, transferring some allocations from the development side to the recurrent side while, in the same breath, scaling down on the delivery public services.

What Treasury is crying for is donor aid, the same aid APM said has crippled Africa. It is aid, not domestic revenue, that has made the fight against malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and Aids a success in Malawi. In fact, without aid, the public health delivery system in Malawi will not only be crippled, but will also collapse instantly!

I’m intrigued that APM goes around the world speaking against aid when his own Minister is busy knocking on various doors, hoping donors can change their mind and resume giving Malawi budgetary support. The other day, Goodall expressed hope while presenting the national budget that AfDB and EU may resume giving us such aid.

We only realised Goodall was barking up the wrong tree when former EU ambassador Marchel Gerrmann ruled out the possibility that EU would resume direct budget support anytime soon. In fact, his parting shot at the end of his tenure was that unless government tackles corruption in earnest, even development aid may be at risk.

Already, more and more of development aid, which make up more than 80 percent of the development budget, is disbursed through off-budget channels. Donors cringe at the mention of Account No 1 which is now better known as “a leaking bucket.”

We all know that aid alone isn’t a sufficient tool for poverty reduction, let alone eradication. But can APM point a country in sub-Saharan Africa which moved from rugs to riches without aid?  Used properly, it serves as a necessary push that can help small or sick economies take off. Africa is now steadily moving away from aid to trade something that could not have happens two decades ago when the whole continent contributed less than two percent to world trade.

As the third poorest country in the world by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita with very low rating on human development index, we need government to chart a clear and do-able economic path, factoring in the hard reality that producing quality products competitively requires capital, technology, skills and infrastructure at the minimum.

We are stuck with producing and exporting raw tobacco which doesn’t even fetch enough for us to meet the cost of importing fuel alone. Why? There are so many reasons, including poor leadership, but key among them all is abject poverty. We just can’t even feed ourselves!

Maybe it’s pointless trying to convince APM to see aid differently.  Had he believed we could do without it, I doubt that he could have allowed the immortalisation of a foreign hero on our soil in exchange for a $100 million edifice.

It looks like the aid he thinks is crippling Africa is that one which sets as conditionalities accountability, transparency and respect for human rights.

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