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Attack on unemployment

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It has been recently reported that all the main opposition parties want President Peter Mutharika to go to Parliament and give speech on the state of the economy and other matters.

Hitherto presidential statements have been hailed only by backbenchers while those on the opposition have denounced it as inadequate and unsatisfactory. To narrow the difference between what is to be given and what is expected, writers of the presidential speech should throw feelers towards the opposition and find the topics on which to the President to give crucial information.

So far, the media is interested in the country’s macro – economic centred on inflation and interest rates as well as the strength or weakness of our national currency the kwacha. Very rarely has the commentators dilated on the unemployment problem. This is a pity.

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In mature multiparty democracies, political parties win or lose elections on the bases of how they have tackled or intend to tackle unemployment.

The sure stand most respective way of eradicating poverty in the country is to give people or create facilities for self-employment. Dolls and largesse are of limited value.

Perhaps not many people give thought to the unemployment because there are no reliable facts and figures to go by. The President’s statement should come and dwell, inter alia, on how many people are unemployed and how unemployment is defined. Remember that there is something called disguised unemployment or underemployment.

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There should be information on how many students graduate from universities annually and how many of these get employed within three or five years. A different time dimension may be selected.

What specific steps is the government taking to create job opportunities and reduce the state of unemployment?

Before any state agency can tackle the unemployment problem, it must know why various categories of people are unemployed. Some people are failing to get jobs because they do not have the education required or the necessary skills.

Some people were working for a company but they were laid off because the demand for the company’s product had fallen while at the same time the government had imposed high minimum wages.

In Malawi, as in most underdeveloped countries, the main cause of unemployment is underdevelopment of resources. Time and again someone has pointed out that Malawi has enough natural and human resources on the basis of which jobs and wealth can be created. Why then are these resources not being developed to the optimum extent and thereby create the extra jobs that the country so badly needs? This is the unsolved question that has been around for decades.

High rates of unemployment, high rates of inflation and interest rates, and the depreciating currency can all be effectively tackled with supply side economics. Produce a bumper maize crop, prices of maize on the market will drop, the inflation rate of the country will also decline; produce more goods for export and earn plenty of foreign reserves, the kwacha will appreciate (gain extra value) vis-à-vis the dollar.

In short, most of our economic problems are due to under-utilisation of the resources. Let us invest money and time in agriculture industry and tourism, we shall then have products to sell. When we invest money in sectors like agriculture secondary industries and services, we will at the same time be creating jobs and unemployment will decline.

A small nail in a tyre can prick a hole there and make the tyre burst, the car turn upside down and cause terrible accident. Similarly, small misdeads or omissions can contribute to economic difficulties. When people occupying senior positions keep on awarding themselves perks they make those lower down believe that the government has enough money to increase their wages by 40 percent or more. When the government in order to avert a strike succumb to such a demand, it borrows money from the central and commercial banks. Interest rates and inflation go up. Those who want to invest in factories are discouraged. No development takes place; those who leave school find no jobs waiting for them.

We have set up a committee to propose reforms in the civil service. Who a remembers of this committee? If they are all existing or former civil servants and no one from abroad, they are not likely to be revolutionary.

When a company has suffered heavy losses, you appoint a new chief executive to reorganise it; you do not appoint the person who bankrupted the company to reorganise it. Instead, changes take place even in the board of directors.

We can achieve a lot of improvement in the economy if we organise ourselves for success. We must have a state organ that will be extra committed to economic affairs staffed and headed by technocrats who will not be subjected to removals upon the change of governments.

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