At last, some people in the country have managed to receive the AstraZeneca jab that would help in protecting them against the deadly coronavirus. You should count yourself lucky if you are in the group that has received the inoculation because, for a country of about 18 million people, to be among those getting one of the 300,000 vaccine doses that arrived last week is no joke.
Really, who could blame the government officials and development partners as they exploded with joy and floated on cloud nine when the aeroplane transporting the sacred goods touched down at Kamuzu International Airport that Friday afternoon? We have certainly had it rough as a country over the past few months as we have lost over a thousand lives to the pandemic while many others contracted the virus until now when the numbers have been on the decline. One can therefore imagine the sort of relief that the vaccine, though with about 75 perecent efficacy, brings.
But please, getting that jab is not a licence for anybody to start relaxing in as far as adherence to the set Covid-19 preventive guidelines is concerned. We need to remain vigilant if we are to completely wipe out this pandemic. It is sad that, in recent weeks, most people have become reckless as they are no longer wearing face masks or sanitising their hands regularly; We must guard against such kind of behaviour.
While we are on the Covid-19 subject, I hear Capital Hill has been dragging its feet when it comes to openness about all the spending to do with Covid-19 that has taken place since last year, a development that the likes of International Monetary Fund (IMF) are not happy with since the government committed to publish and audit Covid-19 funds as a condition for continued access to the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) which the Bretton Woods institution gave us in our hour of great need. In fact, I am not surprised and perhaps this just shows that even the recent K6.2 billion saga was nothing but a well calculated move.
Just putting into consideration the state in which our economy, and indeed many others across the globe, have been over the past year in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, one would have expected the authorities at Capital Hill to be moving at lightning speed when it comes to fulfilling the set conditions of the RCF in order to promote transparency and accountability.
But typical of the government system, someone has been sleeping on the job by stalling the required processes, a development that has not gone down well with the partener bankrolling the credit facility.
We are not dismissing the disturbance that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused but, surely, there are just certain things that we cannot allow to get messed up for fear of reprisals and future implications and the conditions of the RCF are among them.
The funds went a long way in helping balance up the numbers in the country’s financial books and cushioning foreign reserves at the central bank, hence it is suicidal that someone has been procrastinating when it comes to publishing and auditing Covid public spending, a scenario that has bemused IMF.
Last year the IMF disbursed about $192 million for emergency Covid support, out of which, $91 million was disbursed in May 2020 while $101 million was released in October 2020.
The first disbursement was entirely Balance of Payment (BoP) support while 70 percent of the second trench was for boosting BOP position with the remaining 30 going towards the budget.
Such an amount is no small change and we needed to demonstrate goodwill if more funds are to trickle in since the pandemic is still in our midst.
By the way, have we really gotten to the bottom of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 subject? If yes, who are the real culprits and what sort of punishment have they received? Interdicting cluster heads (especially district commissioners) is one thing and I am sure that many people are anxious to know if the billions have been returned. No! We will not find solace in having the small fish fly for small change; what we want to see are the big kahunas being inducted in the ‘hall of shame’ for dipping their fingers in jars they were not supposed to. Such are the rotten bits we need to straighten out while, on the other hand, rejoicing that the vaccine is here.
It is also pleasing to note that some people within the communities have understandably started getting the K35,000 monthly stipend meant to cushion them from the shocks brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. I am told there is enough for three months.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).