Approaching the New Year with pessimism
I must admit that I’m so scared about the future of Malawi in 2016 and beyond, especially if rains don’t fall normally to enable us produce enough food and other cash crops for the survival of people and the economy.
Indeed the only thing that could offer hope to Malawi now could be Mother Nature which might at least provide for the basic needs of the country through agriculture production, exports and foreign exchange.
In the past, donor aid came to the rescue of the Malawi economy, especially in years when nature behaved abnormally and denied our soils rains to water crops that provide food to the people and cash for the economy.
What Malawi has lacked over the past 51 years are right policies and strategies that could have brought resilience to the economy so that normality should be maintained even where rains don’t fall as expected or donors decide to keep their money to themselves.
Even where economic disturbances have emerged with disappearance of either rains or aid, our political leaders have always failed to take control of situations through fiscal discipline that is always required to control rising commodity prices and fall of the local currency when the economy gets heated.
Today, Malawi remains too vulnerable to weather and donor aid shocks as the absence of either or both of the two always brings shockwaves to the economy, causing financial shortages in government and economic misery on the people.
The year 2015 has been a classic example of how detrimental Malawi’s dependence on nature and aid can be, especially when the two are not in place. The year saw the absence of both good rains and donor aid and Malawians are now bearing the full blunt of negative effects of absence of the two lifelines.
And as usual, the leadership in government has failed miserably on the issue of controlled expenditure required to protect consumers and business from harsh effects of the economic meltdown. It’s business as usual in the public and civil service where officials are even going to extent of borrowing from banks to finance government operations.
Yet they know very well that careless spending and local borrowing by the government is fueling inflation and lending rates, making life even more difficult for the people and businesses in the country.
The leadership has also failed to rally everybody in government to austerity measures and live a life of severity themselves as a way of making Malawian appreciate the importance of sacrifice for the sake of restoring economic normality in the country.
The country is now on a roller coaster, with no any sense of direction as to where we are heading to in the coming months and years. Others have even suggested that the country is on auto-pilot as nobody seems to be in control of things.
The Malawi kwacha is in a full free-fall gear and doesn’t look far from reaching K1,000 to the United States dollar from just around K400 it was trading at by mid this year. Yet it’s not too long ago when the government boasted about the country having record foreign exchange reserves at the Reserve Bank of Malawi.
When the picture become clearer around April this year that maize and tobacco production have been badly hit by floods and drought, the government should have sprung into action with measures aimed at protecting the economy from the harshest effects of the shocks.
The subsequent State-of-the-Nation address and budget statement in Parliament should have come out clearly on strategies put in place to mitigate the impending crisis, including austerity measures aimed at controlling expenditure in government.
The country is now going through a crisis characterised by shortages of money and food, electricity and water supplies, shortages of funding in hospitals and other public facilities as well as lack of optimism and confidence about the future of the country among many people and other players in the economy.
Until now, I don’t know of any cost cutting measures being enforced in government apart from slowed down foreign trips by the president, which have somehow been forced on the leadership through public outcries.
Up to now, I don’t know of any strategies to protect the economy should rains decide to stop prematurely or indeed pour down violently, destroying crops and property.
I don’t know about others but I’m personally scared about the future of the country.
That is why going forward; I’m only banking on Mother Nature to rescue Malawi from further economic turmoil. With donor aid now forgotten, I honestly don’t see anything from the leadership that could salvage the country from further collapse should rains not come favourably again. Give us rains oh Lord, or we are doomed. Thumbs down to the government!
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