‘Politicians come and go, problems they create remain’

Hon Folks, commenting on BBC earlier in the week on challenges Brexit has created for Britain, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council said: “Politicians come and go but problems they’ve created remain.”

How true! David Cameron, the British Prime Minister who made a campaign pledge to let the British decide through a referendum whether they wanted to remain or exit EU, vacated 10 Dawning Street  soon after the referendum many months ago but Brexit remains a monster haunting the Palace of Westminster today.

I believe our country would be differently governed if our political leaders, particularly APM who’s Head of State and Government as well as president of the governing DPP, listened to Mr. Tusk who’s president of a body to which heads of EU member countries belong and was also prime minister of Poland from 2007 to 2014.

Accepting the Tusk perspective would’ve made APM strive to be remembered for his efforts in tackling problems, not creating them.

Our problem right now is corruption. We’re back to the unenviable situation we were in 2013 when massive looting of public revenue, dubbed cashgate, was exposed. Donors, who had just increased their contribution to the recurrent budget from around 30 percent the year before to 40 percent in 2013, instantly froze their aid.

Even those donors who were not giving us budgetary support lost confidence in the public finance management system and started using off-budget channels (essentially non-governmental organizations) for the disbursement of their developmental aid?

Joyce Banda did not survive the scam and she lost the 2014 elections, paving way for APM who ensured that Cashgate was blamed on JB and her government alone. Skeptical donors put in their money to ensure the whole 2009 to 2014 which started with Bingu and ended with JB, was probed. The outcome revealed nearly K240 billion was stolen during that five-year term alone.

Naturally, addressing corruption should’ve been APM’s priority. In fact, he said as much in his campaign pledges. He went as far as promising to fix the public finance management system and ensuring the independence of ACB. In reality, very little, if any, has been done in the fight against corruption since the days of Bakili Muluzi.

Now that we are just months away to the end of his term, APM argues there’s no rampant corruption, blaming the media for portraying a false picture of his government. As for the concerns of donors, APM is talking tough, accusing them of meddling with the motive of re-colonizing the country, something he says he will never allow to happen.

Sadly, now we know that the governing party, for which he is the president, got K145 million kickback from proceeds of a business deal a supplier had with government. This begs the question: could this be a one-off case? Time will tell.

But why the indifference when even investors tend to shun countries where corruption is high? Already government has borrowed what will probably take two innocent generations to pay through the nose to fill gaping holes in its budget. How do we make ends meet?

APM has on several occasions boasted that we are managing just fine on our own without going around with a beggar’s bowl. It’s the kind of talk that invokes nationalistic pride in some Malawians. But is he being realistic?

I read with relish Reserve Bank Governor Dalitso Kabambe’s views on the 2018 national budget published in the Weekend Nation of July 7, 2018. He said the whole budget was built on an equivalent of 2 billion USD which roughly translates into 100 USD per head.

“This is the lowest budget ever you can find in the world,” he said. “In the same 100 USD per capita, government has to provide free primary education; has to provide security, free health services and many other things that Malawians need.

Kabambe then went on to show how we barely manage. He said in the health sector alone, government spends 10 USD per capita and development partners add in 30 USD to make it 40 USD which is still way below the Sadc average. Add corruption which, by some conservative estimates drains up to 30 percent of revenue from public coffers, then you have a three-dimensional view of our plight.

Any wonder that we are the third poorest nation by GDP per capita despite that our colleagues in grief are all war torn or failed states? Any wonder that public service delivery continues to deteriorate despite that government is taxing the citizens more and more and MRA has improved efficiency it tax collection?

Now I hear warning shots from outgoing EU ambassador Marchel Gerrmann who says Malawi, which has already lost billions of kwacha in budgetary support, risks losing aid to other areas as well if corruption is not contained.

We know the US is concerned and so too Britain. We can safely say virtually all western donors are concerned with the rampant corruption in the country. Who will pay the price if say, they decide to reduce or freeze their aid to the health sector?

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