The economy and 2014 polls

Honourable Folks, there’s no denying that JB has a much greater stake in the 2014 presidential election than any other presidential aspirants.

Having steered the country for in a cater taker capacity following the sudden death of president Bingu wa Mutharika on April 5 2012, JB needs victory to prove she has what it takes to rise and shine on her own.

The bold measure she took by devaluing the kwacha by 49 percent and floating it at the same time, which brought in donors and forex while greatly impoverishing the consumer, have generally been welcomed by economists and captains of industry.

But these make up a very small part of the urban population which doesn’t matter much in elections. The question that JB should worry about is: Do the more than 80 percent of the voters who are gnashing their teeth in rural Malawi know the merit of JB’s economic reforms? Are they convinced these changes are necessary for our survival and growth?

Waiting for the polls to show whether the electorate has embraced the changes will be highly risky for JB and her government. The disgruntled electorate tends to vote for the incumbent with its feet.

The January 17 Cama-led demonstrations are an indicator that even in the cities, the case for devaluation and floatation is either not fully understood or not convincing to some consumers. These are the same people who go to vote. Now is the time for the JB administration to explain why it made the decision for people to pay the price for the economic blunders of the previous Mutharika administration.

Unless the majority of the people are convinced that their suffering today will help bring about a brighter tomorrow, political hawks will take advantage and drive home to the gullible voters the politically-correct message that the JB administration set the kwacha rolling down the cliff simply because it cares more about donors than Malawians.

Nobody should doubt the impact such a message can have on the choice of a disgruntled electorate. Even though rising on the promise that the economic reforms of the JB administration shall be reversed will only be taking the economy many steps backwards, some politicians are more likely to take that route to the State House, if only because it’s the easier way.

But explaining why the politicians we voted into government in 2009 decided to destroy an economy which was growing at an average of 7.5 percent per annum won’t be easy. It will be an admission, in the same breath, that the folks we entrust with sovereign authority are just as infallible as the rest of us. It will also be a confession that when people in government mess u, it’s us, the electorate, who will inevitably foot the clean-up bill.

A government which does that will also be stimulating the critical faculties of its people.  Not only will they understand the mistakes of the past regime but will also be sensitised to the need to be vigilant and demand transparency and accountability from all their elected leaders.

Trust me, if you are a leader, you don’t want to go that path if your intention for going into government is to grab lucrative government contracts or use your office to extort money from the Asian community. You don’t go that path if your intention is to fill vacancies in the public sector with your siblings and cousins.

You only go that path if you are ready to leave government poorer than your predecessors did, but with a solid Mandela-like legacy.

I believe the surest way for JB to victory in the 2014 election is by revisiting her “Ï have a dream’’ speech delivered in Parliament last year and deciding to walk the talk.

 Instead of wasting airtime on MBC with empty campaign messages, JB should mount an offensive on her economic reforms, explaining to people why they must suffer now for a better tomorrow. Her government should tell them, through the radio and other platforms, why there’s no escaping economic hardship when elected leaders make the kind of stupid mistakes that Mutharika made.

Secondly, JB should prove to the electorate that she and her government are also talking the austerity language by introducing more cost-cutting measures. The Cama petition should serve as a reminder that expenditure control measures government has introduced so far are too little too late. I dare say if there’s someone who says government has done enough, that someone must be a defector to PP trying to win favours by telling the hiring authority sweet lies.

Finally, the JB administration should listen to the cries from the electorate to rid government of rampant corruption and wastage. Why are we looking to donors for 30 percent funding of our national budget when almost the same percentage of the collected revenue goes down the drain every year due to corruption, inefficiency and botched contracts?

Mutharika became a darling of the 64 percent of the electorate that denied him the vote in 2004 by declaring on his inauguration that his government will adopt a zero-tolerance policy on corruption. JB should not waste time thinking her critics hate her. She will earn their votes if she does the right thing.

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