The Malawi economy has experienced reverses in the past one and a half years and causes have originated within and outside the country.
No need spelling them out since this has been done several times.
Any effort to turn around things must be accompanied by hard work.
It is working with dedication and perseverance that brings about change.
Former president Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda visited Taiwan when Chiang Kai-Shek was president and expressed astonishment at the industriousness of its people.
“I used to view the Germans as the hardest working people,” he said. “Having seen how the Chinese work, I have modified my view.”
He went on to urge his people to work hard in their gardens.
Kamuzu did not make any negative remarks about how civil servants worked. Our civil servants had high reputation in the early days of his regime.
At one point, Kamuzu even sent some of them to other African countries to see how hard their counterparts were working.
When they came back, I heard one principal secretary saying: “We have nothing to learn from other civil servants.”
I thought he was just proud, but when the former Zambian president Frederick Chiluba visited Malawi, he publicly said he had heard of high reputation of our civil servants and wanted his civil servants to learn from them.
In 1994, Malawiâ€™s multiparty election took place which ushered Bakili Muluzi into presidency.
One morning, Muluzi made a sudden visit to Capital Hill and found that most civil servants were yet to arrive although it was 8am.
President Joyce Banda was recently quoted lamenting that most civil servants do not work as hard as they do when they join the private sector.
Her observation drew threats from the president of the civil servants union who referred to some issues government is yet to resolve.
Nobody likes to be told that he/she is not hard working.
President Banda as the boss of the civil servants has a right to express her concern with the performance of the civil servants.
Malawi is a developmental State.
In such a State, trade unions work in partnership with the ruling party or the government.
Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore and former trade union leader on taking office, told unionists that adversarial style of Western and developed countries would be inimical to the development of a young country such as Singapore.
The unionists understood his point and they started working side by side with the government to develop their country and the talk of high salaries came second.
These days, workers in Singapore earn more than their counterparts in the developed countries.
In the private sector, those who want to start a business are advised to make money first before they decide what to do with it.
This means in the past, one would work hard, but lived frugally.
The same principle applies to the public service. Better pay for civil servants should follow, not precede, higher growth rates in the economy.
African presidents who want to turn around economies of their countries, Dame Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of Britain, should be adopted as a role model.
She turned around the British economy from the brink. How did she do it?
A few quotations from her autobiography will give the clues: “We decided to submit evidence to the commission about the necessity of keeping departmental budgets within reasonable limits and what that meant for the public sector pay.
“By May 13 1980, I was able to lay before the House our long term targets for reducing civil service numbers.
“But the corollary of this was that we should reward outstanding ability within the civil service.
“In all these decisions, however, ability, drive and enthusiasm were what mattered; political allegiance was not something I took into account.
“I also asked Sir Derek Rayner to set up an efficiency unit that should tackle the waste and ineffectiveness of government. Derek was another successful businessperson from…Marks and Spencer.”
There is no gainsaying that the Malawi civil service is not operating at its potential. Some people will say the morale of the civil servants is low because they are not well paid.
But if there is not enough money from which to pay salaries, what will be considered enough compensation?
What President Banda should consider is setting up a commission of inquiry into the civil service; how it can be made effective and how to reward the deserving ones.
She should listen with sympathy to what civil servants demand, but should not be stampeded into making concessions which would result in Malawi â€˜living beyond its meansâ€™ as Germans accuse people of the European Union (EU) member countries who are asking for bailouts.