Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe is a man with a rare privilege of being behind most of the economic and financial decisions this country has had since independence.
He was there, during Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorship, working as key civil servant in the ministry of finance. He, later, moved to International Monetary Fund (IMF) where he was critical in deciding and shaping the tone and course of Africa’s economies—Malawi inclusive.
He, then, returned home in the early 2000s and became a key economic figure in government when he worked as the economic adviser to then president Bakili Muluzi.
His central role in the economy expanded even further when he became the finance minister during the Bingu wa Mutharika regime.
We all know, of course, how Gondwe’s hold to the economy remained intact even before the incumbent leader Peter Mutharika returned him to finance ministry.
He worked as a Minister of Local Government, then Energy and Mining, and when Bingu died, former president Joyce Banda made him Minister of Economic Planning and Development.
Surely, as a planner and an executor, both at an international and local scene, the story of Malawi’s economy journey is incomplete without a mention of Gondwe.
That is why as we continue to reflect on why we are still poor after 51 years of independence; it is not enough to just narrow the focus on scrutinising policies.
Figures like Gondwe, who have spawned the best part of our economy decisions for years, deserves scrutiny, too.
We need, today, to ask ourselves tough questions regarding the relevance of people that have always been behind our economic decisions.
How relevant, in the 51 years, has Gondwe been to the economy as a key actor in planning and executing our economic decisions?
I am not saying that Gondwe is the one behind this economic disaster. Please don’t get me wrong. All I am questioning is the justification of still having the same faces behind yesterday strings of failures defining our economic decisions.
Does it make sense?
In no way, I must emphasise, is this opinion an attempt to discredit the character of Mr Goodall Gondwe. I believe he has always been a humble civil servant.
However, Gondwe’s job, not him, has been at the heart of defining the lives of millions in the country.
All we have experienced, in the 51 years of independence, is a steady oversupply of politicians, with top civil servant as their accomplices, with one goal: primitive accumulation of public resources. In pursuit of that goal, they have all frustrated the country’s long-term development goals for short and idiosyncratic ones that, till date, continue to trap Malawians in the web of poverty.
Against such a context, where do we locate the role of influential figures like Gondwe? Have they helped to reduce or accelerate the problem?
When we blame the IMF for imposing policies that stifle our local economies, what do we think of Gondwe who was one of its trusted financial minds?
When Germany and other developmental partners close their donor tap in 2003 due to massive corruption during the Muluzi regime, where do we locate Gondwe who, then, was an economic adviser to the president?
I appreciate the role Gondwe played, during the Bingu era, of emphasising financial prudence that saw IMF and World Bank writing off the billions we owed them. But why should we celebrate when reports indicate that by 2009 our debts levels had, again, skyrocketed?
When Bingu was adamant in devaluing the overvalued local currency, something that does not need one to understand economics to appreciate it was irrational, where was Gondwe to make things right?
Or when we talk about massive looting of public resources—the Muluzi’s K1.7 billion, Bingu’s K61 billion wealth, the K577 billion query, the Cashgate—where do we locate Gondwe who, in all this, was a leader in the country’s financial management?
Today, under Peter Mutharika, the administration is keeping hospitals dry at the expense of nonsensical programmes like Malata subsidy, where is Gondwe in this? n