Some years ago, my late father, the celebrated journalist and columnist Edward Chitsulo, once told me to never give someone a reason to question my integrity.
In simple terms, integrity means being honest, having moral values and being someone people can trust or who cannot be moved by kickbacks or connections.
My father further stated that once one loses integrity, people are mostly unwilling to offer assistance in times of need.
Currently, our nation is struggling with one crisis after another, including the forex shortage fuelling the petroleum crisis.
And the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has gone further to indicate that they see leadership as the underlying crisis in our problems.
For starters, this is the same IMF that made us devalue the kwacha in May this year as a precondition for their support.
Now, the same IMF says the country has to first bring its sovereign debt to sustainable levels before negotiations for any assistance begins.
At this point, one would ask: is the IMF being unreasonable while we need urgent assistance to lessen our worsening problems?
The answer is simple. Going by the IMF statement on our leadership, one can safely argue that our leadership has given the Briton Woods institution and the rest of the international lending community, reasons to question our integrity.
Firstly, we needed to appreciate that the money that the IMF lends out comes from the contributions of its 190-member countries, with the biggest contributors being the US, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
Secondly, it is common knowledge that even these wealthy nations are also struggling economically as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
In light of these two factors, we need to understand that besides working on meeting economic conditions from the IMF, we also have to demonstrate integrity to be considered for any financial assistance.
Simply put, IMF does not want to channel its benefactors’ hard-earned money to people that they cannot trust.
Now the question should be: How have we failed to demonstrate integrity and consequently lost IMF’s trust to the point of being publicly told that ours is a leadership crisis?
For starters, the pending corruption and bribery allegations plus dodgy court cases involving some top government officials could be our undoing.
There seems to be no real commitment, direction and progress in dealing with these high-level corruption allegations and court cases.
All we have been subjected to is lip service from our leadership, which promised to ensure public servants are held to account for every tambala.
Now, do we really think that the IMF has not been following all this?
What convinces us that they would offer assistance with stories of corruption flying around?
One only wonders why have we taken a laissez-faire approach in curbing this destructive vice called corruption.
Additionally, we have demonstrated sheer wastefulness in the management of public resources, including forex.
Surprisingly, some of the things that drain our forex can either be sourced locally or we can forego them altogether.
For instance, why are we still pursuing the Affordable Inputs Programme despite the fact that the State-sponsored subsidy that massively drains our forex has not really achieved the desired objectives?
Can’t we finance commercial farming in our quest to end hunger, instead of pursuing a populist hand-to-mouth policy?
Again, why are we using (and paying in foreign currency) foreign transporters to bring in our fuel? Can we not maximise the use of the local transporters paid in kwacha?
For the sake of perspective, despite the Covid-19 pandemic hitting hard their mighty tourism industry, a number of leadership shortcomings have also been blamed for the unprecedented economic crisis in Sri Lanka. The shortcomings include corruption and impunity, unsustainable borrowing, failure to boost exports, and huge tax cuts.
This is a reminder that leadership is almost everything.
From the foregoing, one can safely agree with the IMF that indeed we have a leadership crisis.
If only our leaders’ decisions were guided by integrity, knowledge and common, we would not have been here for sure.