Some role for you and me in 2012!

Honourable Folks, the destruction of our economy, which was gradually built for much of the time President Bingu wa Mutharika has been in office, was fast-tracked in the second half of 2011.

Today, we are counting hours to the New Year 2012 with trepidation. It is obvious government’s decision to fix a political pricetag to the kwacha has backfired. Now it is not a matter of if, but when the kwacha will glide down the cliff and fall with a bump.

When that happens, IMF just may give our economy the green card that restores donor confidence, but that does not necessarily mean an instant end to our fuel, forex and drug woes. We are yet to get to the proverbial darkest hour that comes before dawn.

What will certainly go up when the kwacha falls significantly is the cost of living. Already, we are feeling the pinch of high zero-deficit taxes and ever rising cost of goods and services coupled with their scarcity. It is obvious quite a few sectors of the economy have scaled down production.

It is in 2012 that the full impact of the 2011 political blunders of this administration will weigh down on us. But the opportunity we can rake out of this challenge as a nation is to learn from it what works and what doesn’t.

The one thing that we must always bear in mind is that our economy is small and fragile; it can only grow big and benefit all of us if we do the right thing—government coming up with pragmatic policies and the citizens showing a passion for hard work, self-help and putting our national interests above our personal agendas.

The zero-deficit budget was an ill-informed initiative. Although the good reason for it was to wean the country from heavy dependence on donor aid, we know that the real reason was for those in power to short-change us on democracy so they could consolidate their grip on power beyond 2014.

We know this government could have been as oppressive as Kamuzu Banda’s despite the Constitution providing for Bill of Rights had donors pandered to the letter the hackneyed policy of “non-interference in the internal affairs of an independent sovereign state.”

As it is, we are told it is only China that does not attach the good governance conditionality to its aid. I guess it is a matter of time before Beijing realises that governments come and go, but lasting and trusting relationships can only be made with governments that have the welfare of the people at heart.

But that is beside the point. As citizens, we should reject the notion that our democratic role begins and ends at the ballot box. There is no good governance anywhere under the sun where civil society does not hold the elected leaders and public sector management to account.

In Malawi, we sat and watched for 31 years as Kamuzu was recreating the country in his own image. Then came Bakili Muluzi and the song was the same: leadership comes from God, our duty is to trust and obey.

Consequently, Muluzi took us for granted, messed up the economy and reversed his impeccable first-term human rights record. By the time he was leaving office, we had the Vision 2020 blueprint in our hands yet in terms of human development, we were worse off than we had been in 1992!

Then came Mutharika; his inaugural speech recognised the key role a motivated citizenry plays in the development of the economy. But when the fruit of that partnership—which also included donors—began to show, he started boasting that what we were witnessing was work of his—not  our—hands.

Now the economy is in a shambles and he blames everyone—the media, UDF and MCP, foreign investors, economists who washed their heads with Omo, civil society and even Satan—everyone  out there except himself and his government.

This blame game can go on, but it won’t restore our shattered hope for a better tomorrow. To achieve that, we all ought to play our roles to ensure that nobody—not even a president—pursues a selfish agenda in our name and at our expense.

Rest assured that Backbencher will tell it as it is so that you are equipped with necessary information with which to make informed choices. Will you also rise above personal interest and play your role in making Malawi a better country? Happy New Year everybody!

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