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Living another day

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It has been a couple of turbulent weeks in as far as the country’s economic situation is concerned. Topping the list has been the protracted negotiations between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to do with the bid to have a new Extended Credit Facility for Malawi. Much as some people might want to play down the significance of the amounts that are made available through the ECF, it is such chunks of money that are provided at intervals that help instill confidence in the economy and therefore the facility really deserves that seat at the table. I just wanted to emphasise that, otherwise I will leave that discussion to economic dons.

As a result of the forex shortfall, it has been evident that procurement of fuel on the international market has been a tall order though last week we were told by the President that we had secured some funds from commercial banks to facilitate the same.

Certainly we are happy that petrol pump prices have gone down in recent months but then with the challenge on our hands of fuel scarcity, one wonders if it might have the anticipated positive effect on the situation on the ground. As some have already intimated, traders are quick to raise prices of basic goods once fuel prices rise but seldom decrease them once they come down. Should we blame the prevailing economic climate, perhaps? Anyway, let us watch with keen interest to see, if at all, the reduction in petrol price will move the traders to do ‘the needful’.

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And now with the fuel, particularly diesel, still flowing in minute content on the market, one wonders whether the move by Capital Hill to issue permits allowing some companies that consume fuel in large quantities to import on their own will not compound the forex shortage scenario. It is clear that a lot of industries have felt the heat stemming from the fuel scarcity problem and unless things stabilize over the next few days or weeks, the results might be telling. Yes the scramble at filing stations might be reduced but won’t the companies offered permits to import start scrambling with the traditional buyers on the international markets, resulting in creation of a problem on top of another? So many ‘what ifs’ but we can only hope for the best. With the vacant position of Chief Executive Officer for National Oil company of Malawi now finally advertised, let us hope things will be smooth sailing once the post has been filled and that we will not witness a repeat of the madness at some parastatal that was shut down a couple of weeks ago.

The clock is also ticking for the Ministry of Agriculture folks to finalise and roll out the Affordable Inputs Programme for this season, after President Lazarus Chakwera gave the line minister up until this month to ensure that everything is in order, unlike last season when there were a lot of shortcomings. Up until now, there has been a deafening silence from the authorities and one wonders whether there have been movements at all to do with the procurement and availability of the commodity for the programme since both private suppliers and Parliament have hinted that we might only have a fraction of the required 400,000 metric tonnes due to the forex challenges and other procurement bottlenecks

Added to all of the above is the loud cry from some UTM loyalists who feel they are being ostracised together with their leader within the nine-member Tonse Alliance that is steering government. We will not dwell on the actual issues surrounding Vice President Saulos Chilima’s sidelining by the President. We will wait until such issues bordering on Sattar-related implications are finally brought to light or cleared. Much as this might hinge on internal party conflicts, it has the ability to dent that overall image of the government considering that UTM is an influential partner. Let us hope this ‘wailing’ by the officials has nothing to do with the tendency by politicians to grumble once they notice that they are not getting any ‘food or crumbs from the table’.

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All these problems are certainly weighing heavily on the Tonse Alliance-led government and it remains a mystery as to how it will successfully manouvre around them and bring relief to all Malawians.

And just the other day, former president Peter Mutharika, whose administration equally fared miserably in addressing economic challenges that rocked the country, went to town chastising the Tonse-led administration, arguing the best it can do was to call for a government of national unity as we plan to hit the reset button for the country. Really now, that is the answer that could wipe out all the problems or just render a chance for more politicians to get aboard the gravy train?

Whatever tomorrow brings, we will certainly get to see it and surely we will live another day.

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