To write from a hotel room in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on what should have been the Lilongwe-hosted African Union (AU) summit and the chaffy reasoning that made us proceed with the event before screaming, “Oh, God, we canâ€™t” at the last minute, is as ironical as it gets.
Yet, here I am, with a satisfied smirk on my face, in Africaâ€™s political capital that has snatched back the summit, awaiting my next flight, musing about my leader and picturing her with eggs all over her face in Washington or wherever her globe-trotting mind takes her to, with her First Dude in tow.
Not long ago, President Joyce Banda called me out during one of her press conferences. She wanted to respond to my piece on what I considered a chaffy thought process leading to her decision to proceed with hosting the summit despite our tattered fiscal cloth and the diplomatic minefield Malawi could venture into, especially on the question of how to handle Sudanese dictator, Al-Bashir.
In that article, I also talked about the ridiculously chaffy reason her administration gave for hosting: to honour the late President Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s wishes. I also stated that Banda waffles around her positions so much that it is hard to know where she stands on issues.
Amayi, as some folks call her, was not pleased; hence, the search for me at the press conference. She also personally called my bosses to complain about my portrayal of her and was particularly aghast that I compared her to Alice in Wanderland.
Banda has been asking her Cabinet to decide where to go without her own destination in mind and look what that got us on the summitâ€”nowhere.
Two months after that piece, I feel vindicated. Banda has apparently changed her mind again. Vice-President Khumbo Kachali announced last week that Lilongwe will not host the event due to the diplomatic fallout over Al-Bashir that could cost Malawi aid if it hosted the rogue soldier.
Once again, her flip-flopping hodgepodge was in full display. Maybe our President, who believes in governing by commissions of inquiry and/or special Cabinet committees, should appoint one to investigate why she changes her mind so much.
But her lack of clear leadership on an issue of such international significance will needlessly isolate Malawi diplomatically on the continent. How will she relate with her fellow Heads of State and governments at the Summit, for example?
Banda had the opportunity to avoid this awkward flare-up after Mutharika died. She could simply have said our finances were too dire. But she tried to spin the decision by claiming that it was too late to cancel; that our big brother, South Africa, and other neighbours would support us.
That was two months ago. Apparently, today, two weeks before the event, it is early enough to cancel. Or have our benefactors withdrawn their support? Or maybe, just maybe, State House and Capital Hill have just received the memo on the warrants of arrest for Al-Bashir. How chaffy!
On the 2012/13 budget, I think I have written about and said enough on radio. I understand the agony that Finance Minister Dr. Ken Lipenga and his Secretary to the Treasury Randson Mwadiwa went through in calibrating an appropriate balance for the fiscal plan.
On one hand, they had to prove to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other development partners that they are a credible partner in efforts to get back the local economy on track.
At the back of Lipenga and Mwadiwaâ€™s minds were the new Extended Credit Facility (ECF) negotiations that are critical to the sustainable flow of donor resources in the medium term.
They were also haunted by nightmares of how foreign aid brought the economy to its knees and likely to keep it depressed for the next three quarters or more. And, oh, they also had the interests of both foreign direct and portfolio investors at their palpitating hearts.
On the other hand, the duo also had to deal with the pressure to stimulate the economy by leaving more money in peopleâ€™s pockets and investing in the countryâ€™s social and physical infrastructure. It was a tough choice not just ideologically, but pragmatically as well.
The problem is that instead of making tough choices, these folks took the easiest routes calculated to pacify powerful lobby groups such as Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Society of Accountants in Malawi and, of course, the pro-business godfathers answering to the name of the World Bank and the IMF.
So, it came to pass that Lipenga sauntered into Parliament to present a business and donor-pleasing tax regime and economic programme based on the tired neoliberal thinking that once entrepreneurs get richer, the crumbs will trickle down to the middle or working class and the poor.
It is a failed economic model that has left the US, Britain and other economies that operate on such flawed thinking trembling with record poverty and unemployment numbers.
In essence, this budget will tax the have-nots more heavily than the haves. The question is: with mass consumers still taxed so harshly and inflation eating away their already meager incomes, how much of the rich manâ€™s goods will these milked thin cows buy? Let us wait and see.