Renowned author Greg Mills has called on Malawi’s leadership to be bold and make tough decisions in the public reforms agenda for the country to graduate from poverty.
The author, who is also director for South Africa-based Brenthurst Foundation said this in Lilongwe on Tuesday when he launched his new book Rich State, Poor State.
The book provides a comparative analysis of how leadership and strategy can improve or downgrade nations’ economies, with a focus on Malawi and other countries in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe.
In an interview on the sidelines of the launch, Mills said his observation of Malawi is that the country is lagging behind because of failure to balance political effects of tough decisions.
He said Malawi has public reforms which must be accelerated and implemented without ‘too much’ political considerations.
Said Mills: “I think one clear decision that has to be made at the time is to improve market pricing in agriculture. But if you improve market pricing in agriculture, certain people who are profiting from the current system will fight back and this is always the problem with reforms because there are always winners and losers, but of course that is the difficult political balancing act.”
When asked the suggestion that he would provide President Lazarus Chakwera if he had an audience with him, he said the President should consider liberalising foreign exchange.
Said Mills: “I think the one difficult choice is liberalising the exchange rate. The overall winner in this is Malawi because you need to balance up the supply and demand of the exchange rate and the fundamental problem is that Malawi exports much less than it imports.
“Of course, over-subsiding the exchange rate is benefitting the elite more than it benefits the poor because imports are relatively cheap.”
But in a separate interview, Malawi University of Science and Technology professor of finance James Khomba said liberalising the exchange rate is not entirely a solution.
He said: “Even if our local currency was reduced to nothing to attract exports, we have almost nothing to export. Our seasonal annual tobacco earnings can hardly buy one soccer player in the European league.”
On the other hand, economist Milwad Tobias, who has expressed interest to vie for the presidency in 2025, agreed with Mills, saying what will make a difference in a country is the kind of leadership that people choose.
“We can export and earn more, but what is important is having a leadership which has integrity so that public funds are used for intended purposes. We must stamp out corruption,” he said.
Rich State Poor State has benefited from a pool of resources, from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund insights to former and current presidents and senior government officials across the globe, to provide a compelling comparative analysis of how leadership has been key in transforming some nations.
In the last 30 years, Mills has authored over 20 books and in 2012 he co-authored Africa’s Third Liberation with Malawi’s former president Joyce Banda and the book was launched in Brussels.
The latest book was launched in Lilongwe at the Moroccan Embassy at a ceremony attended by diplomats, private sector players and government officials.