One outstanding issue for JB

Honourable Folks, there’s no denying that JB has scored major on the diplomatic offensive. Within a quarter of a year she has restored the strategic relations with neighbours and donors that the late Mutharika recklessly demolished.

Mozambique and Zambia are not only back on talking terms with us but they have also shown that in our hour of need, they are there as friends indeed. They have already helped us with fuel and food. Malawi and Mozambique are also working together on energy and transport programmes.

The US-sponsored 355 million USD (K87 billion) programme in the energy sector under the Millennium Challenge Corporation is back on course and IMF’s Extended Credit Facility has been resuscitated and K42 billion (USD 157 million) relief package already committed to support economic recovery efforts in the next three years.

Probably most exciting is the restoration of good relations with the British Government. It is one government in the whole world with which Malawi has historical ties too precious to be carelessly messed up as did Mutharika.

Politicians have talked about fighting against the “stupid federation” in the 1950s and the Chilembwe uprising of 1915. The fact still remains that Malawi was never a British colony but a protectorate.

You just have to see the picture of the first grass-thatched structure the British missionaries put up at Blantyre Mission in the land of Chief Kapeni in the mid 19th Century to realise our relations started when Malawi was a land of footpaths.

Conflicts aside, Blantyre (named after the home town of Dr. David Livingstone), became the first town in British Central Africa (Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe), thanks to the work of the British. They also fought against slave trade, established central government in Zomba and introduced most of the cash crops—tobacco, tea, coffee—that we still depend on today.

Even after attaining independence in 1964, Britain never dished Malawi and has all along been a major donor to our national budget and our various development programmes. There is no denying that many (I’m reliably informed that even within the Cabinet itself) were against the deportation of the British High Commissioner by Mutharika.

Now, the soured relationship now been restored, bravo JB!

But the cost of restoring ties with IMF and other donors has been borne by poor Malawians who have been made poorer by the rising cost of living as a result of heavy devaluation of the kwacha by nearly 50 percent.

This is the point the JB government should always bear in mind as power begins to corrupt. They should be reminded that mistakes made by Mutharika and his cronies have pushed many innocent Malawians who had crossed the abject poverty line of living on less than a dollar a day back into abyss of deprivation.

Many people have lost their jobs and the lucky ones who are still working have to change their lifestyles as their disposable incomes continue to fetch less and less at the market.

In rural areas, poverty is also growing at an alarming level. Reports indicate that in drought- hit Southern Region, an estimated 1 million people are already food insecure requiring relief despite the billions that government invested in farm input subsidies.

Unless intervention is swift and adequate, hunger may trigger poor health and a rise in school drop-out rate. All this is happening when public hospitals are scaling down operations besides spending valuable time dousing sparks in labour relations emanating from the same increased cost of living.

Careless handled this volatile situation may linger on, turn hungry electorate into angry voters and cost those in government the votes in 2014 unless they are willing to deny themselves extreme comfort at our expense.

JB has already promised to sell the presidential jet and reduce the limousines on her motorcade. I just want to remind the President, and those surrounding her, that corruption, if arrested, can bring to productive use 30 per cent of the revenue government collects every year.

So far, there isn’t much being seen done to curb corruption is surpasses the average Sadc rate of 20 per cent by a very wide margin. Declaration of Asset and liabilities remain a constitutional provision without an effective enabling law that can be used to enforce compliance.

It’s up to JB to ensure that her charges, some of whom we already know, have no choice but to operate above board or face the law.

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