Economic reforms anywhere bring hardships on some members of society though others do benefit. To put it differently, the pains that accompany reforms impact on classes of people differently. The gains that the reforms bring about differ from one person to another or one group of society to another.
Why are reforms introduced if they make people gnash their teeth and groan with agony? Reforms are proposed and implemented to improve a situation that is considered unsatisfactory. No situation is a boon for everyone. Some people benefit from the status-quo. It is those who are privileged in the existing situation who grumble most when the reforms are introduced because the advantages they used to enjoy get eroded.
When a country has been hit by famine, food prices rise, the consumer especially the underpaid ones suffer a lot. But this is the time that farmers who have unsold stocks in their barns make a killing.
In the year of bumper harvest, food prices tumble; farmers suffer losses and threaten to turn some acreage from growing food to growing cash crops.
Does the devaluation of a currency hurt anyone? You bet it does not. A currency is devalued to make a country’s exports more competitive. Hence, devaluation helps exporters in that they now sell more of their products. But it hurts importers who must now pay more for imports. And it hurts consumers of imported food items or manufacturers who use imported raw materials.
Rising bank interest rates hurt those with bank loans, but depositors in bank accounts welcome higher interest earnings.
Critics of a situation such as the one in which we are in at present are seldom broadminded. They cater for narrow interests. It becomes a welcomed thing when outsiders such as representatives of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) express their views on the state of our economy. They are likely to be more detached than those of us who are directly affected by the reforms.
The remarks by the World Bank country representative that neighbouring countries are experiencing booming economies whereas we are not should make us reflect on our past performance.
To do this, we should downplay politics or the politics of criticism and try to discover the things that can help to turn the economy around. Cooperation between people of different political ideologies is better than confrontation.
Those who think they serve the nation by always being, hyper-critical of what others are doing should pose and give a thought to what Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States, said about a century ago: “It is not the critic who counts nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly who errs and comes short again and again who spends himself in a worthy cause- his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
In other words, if you feel you are a better person than the one who is busy struggling, do not engage us in argument. Just show us your own achievement.
Our neighbours are forging ahead economically. Even the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as I saw on Focus on Africa television, is now registering growth rates of more than eight percent gross domestic product (GDP), yet Malawi less than five years ago used to boast of such growth rates. Where did we go wrong? How did we lose the pace at which the country was growing?
The prosperity of our neighbours can be a boon to us if we strategise ourselves to do more business with them. Being a landlocked country is a big disadvantage only if the country next to it is just as poor and does not offer a market. Let Mozambique prosper. Let us manufacture products and grow crops which the wealthier Mozambicans can buy from us as we buy from them.
Said an American Presybetrian Pastor: “Tough times do not last, tough people do.” These are indeed tough times but their toughness can be a mere duration if we do the right things to make the economy bounce back. If someone has good ideas about making Malawi catch up with its neighbours why does he not let us know?