Where do we go from here?

 

Malawi gained independence from Britain on July 6 1964. This Saturday, July 6, we will be celebrating 49 years of political independence.

I am underlining ‘political independence’ because, somehow, on the economic side, we are yet to be independent if the dependence on development partners to finance our budgets-both development and recurrent expenditures—is anything to go by.

Forty-nine years later, Malawi is put in the same bracket as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Niger, Ethiopia, Central Africa Republic and Togo as the 10 poorest by rank on the African continent. This is not an enviable tag considering that our country has enjoyed peace and calm over the years where as most of the countries we are sailing in the same boat with have, at one point or another, faced civil strife that destabilised their growth.

Donors or development partners as they prefer to be called nowadays have been financing Malawi’s budget over the years. On average, the donors’ input in our development budget has been 80 percent whereas in the recurrent budget it has been estimated at 40 percent. For example, in the 2013/14 national budget, donor grants are projected at 40 percent of the total domestic revenue plus grants, up from 31.5 percent in the 2012/13 budget which was, of course, later revised to 39.6 percent.

My take is that as we celebrate 49 years of independence at Civo Stadium in Lilongwe, we should take this as the right time to reflect on our past, see where we went wrong and how we can improve on our weaknesses to rise to the occasion.

This dependency syndrome will take our country nowhere as the masses will continue wallowing in poverty as the ruling elite become filthy rich by any measure.

Surely, after 49 years of independence, it does not make sense for the country to continue budgeting 10 percent of the national budget to subsidise bags of fertiliser. Indeed, after such a long period of independence, it is a joke for the head of State to go about distributing maize to citizens.

Ironically, some of the challenges our country faces, notably on the economic front, have come against a background of several prescriptions from international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Sadly, despite all this, Malawi has lagged behind other countries such as Mauritius with whom it was on equal footing in terms of economic growth in the 1960s.

This is the time to seriously look into encouraging local export growth by holistically implementing the National Export Strategy (NES). We need to walk the talk through action, action and more action than the lip-service we have become known for. The NES document should not be left to gather dust on the bookshelves at Capital Hill.

With the 50th anniversary around the corner next year, we seriously need to think and reflect on the past. What went wrong? Is it the type of leadership we have had? Do we need a new generation of leaders? For 49 years, the same faces have come and gone while the youth have been touted as “leaders of tomorrow”. To quote my good friend John-Gift Mwakhwawa: “Tomorrow has come.” The new generation should bring new and fresh ideas to move the country forward.

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