President Joyce Banda failed to articulate the direction the country is taking in her State of the Nation Address when she opened the current sitting of Parliament two weeks ago.
These were sentiments captured in a Nation on Sunday survey on the President’s speech. The survey asked people whether they thought the speech articulated a vision of where the country is going.
Out of 1 233 people sampled from 13 districts who participated in the opinion poll, 706 said they did not see a lot of substance in the speech.
This represents 57 percent of the sample.
In the speech, the President warned Malawians to brace for more pain as the country continues on the recovery path.
“Indeed, we must remember that the road to full recovery is long. I, therefore, wish to appeal to all Malawians to remain steadfast and resilient until we reach the full recovery we envisage,” she said.
The President outlined a number of reforms in the economy, agriculture, public sector, social support, tourism and health.
She also announced that government would set up Mudzi Transformational Trust to mobilise accessible, responsive and flexible resources to support social and economic projects for Malawians.
Speaking after the speech, opposition leaders and donors said implementation was key to actualising the issues outlined in the President’s speech.
In an interview on Saturday, human rights activist Billy Mayaya said the President focused on rhetoric at a time she should be presenting concrete measures to improve the lives of Malawians.
“While the speech was forward-looking and full of optimism, it offered nothing of substance in terms of dealing with the current economic malaise. The stabilisation of the kwacha can be attributed to the tobacco season. This is an annual phenomenon. There was no reference to instituting hard-line austerity measures on government bureaucracy,” said Mayaya.
He said government has pushed the burden of austerity on poor Malawians whose disposable income is already dwindling.
“There was no reference to improving the legal environment for the extractive industry which is a viable value addition to agriculture. The speech was full of run-of-the-mill diplomatic niceties to really convince 15-plus million Malawians that this year should be filled with optimism. Sadly, it’s business as usual with empty rhetoric as we head towards the elections,” said Mayaya.
But in his budget statement in Parliament on Friday, Minister of Finance Dr Ken Lipenga described the President’s speech as visionary.
“Suppose, as the doomsayers and professional cynics say, all this proved to be temporary. Well, we all know about the seasonal structure of our economy. It is true that our economy is characterised by seasonality. It is equally true that in the past two years, we experienced the seasonality phenomenon. However, there was no recovery during those two years.
“But should we just sit back and lament that the encouraging signs we see at the moment are only temporary and therefore we should continue looking sad like professional mourners because come December the kwacha will weaken again? We in government, we in the People’s Party, do not think so.
“We believe that with the right policies in place and hard work, the lean season can be broken. We do not have to accept the seasonal structure of our economy as a permanent condition, a permanent curse, of our nation,” said Lipenga.