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Malawi the poorest: another burden on leadership

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Malawi is indeed a country in permanent state of anxious uncertainty where contradictions are the ultimate dictator.

“Speaking of Malawi barely a decade ago, the BBC said and I quote:

“The country has made real progress in achieving economic growth as part of programmes instituted by the government of President Mutharika in 2005. Health care, education and environmental conditions have improved and Malawi has started to move away from reliance on overseas aid.”

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Ten years later an Online Paper Nyasanet reports and I quote:

“Malawi is now the poorest country in the world ranked in order based on GDP per capita, according to the World Bank.”

Jarod Kintz says every politician has a ‘promising career’ but unfortunately most of them do not keep those promises. Traditional wisdom says it is not turning into a lion that is hard it is catching the lion by its tail; it is humane to give a monkey a cup of water, but consider how to retrieve the cup.

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Malawi is stagnating. Failure is in the air. Leaders and experts are in a tight corner, too fallible to inspire. The sense of foreboding is palpable. However, the solution lies not in ‘desperate need for donor support’ for we know this has failed. Rather the answer is to search the hearts of Malawians and define a lasting solution.

Bingu with all his frailties managed to change narrative of despondency to one of hope. He encouraged colour dreams not as a joke, but to generate positive thinking Malawi needs moving forward.

He was too firm for democratic idealists yet it is clear Malawi won’t get anywhere without firm leadership. The West will denigrate President Kagame as they did Bingu for ‘increasingly autocratic tendencies’ but his country is advancing. Rwandeses are happier today than ever before.

Incidentally, which countries developed as a direct result of democracy? Was the much touted industrial revolution democracy or enslaved labour? Is it not black slaves who developed American agriculture and the present infrastructure?

Let’s move continents: why is Australia rocked by huge embarrassing law suits if not for the de-humanisation and forced re-acculturation of Aborigines who have the rightful claim to Australia, the land that British war convicts conquered for the Queen?

President Bingu talked about local solutions to local problems. He sought to protect sovereignty and executive decisions. He famously talked of poor people in a rich country and was ready to lose friends for what he believed.

I disagree that Malawi’s economic failures are to do with education, landlockedness or poor rains. Critical as they are these conditions can be confronted through policy never used to justify poverty.

With all the water, arable land and cheap labour if we invited the Jews to manage Malawi’s agro-economy for ten odd years Malawi would be out of poverty moving towards middle income status. Outrageous thinking perhaps but my point is made!

Question is why won’t Malawians do it?

Going back to the case of Paul Kagame’s country what resources does tiny hilly Rwanda have that Malawi does not have if not honest government; honest civil servants; honest politicians; honest business captains and people inspired to work?

Let me emphasise that reversing Malawi’s poverty lies not only in an honest radical leadership that confronts archaic public policies, but also in citizens with the right attitude to work; in people who consciously take responsibility for their own development.

In respect of work attitudes government needs to be supported. And to illustrate I dare say a 30 year old drug beaten semi-literate voluntary school drop-out has no business blaming government for doing nothing about young people! Far too many lazy people blame government for self-inflicted misfortunes.

That said government needs to make radical changes. The country must achieve high burn rate of funds to provide vital services, goods and infrastructure. It must re-define its core business in order to re-define core development programmes, allocate adequate resources and ensure that every tambala is put to legitimate use.

Let’s fund irrigation and tackle impacts of food shortages on the economy; good nutrition to curtail its effects on human development; extension services to improve small scale farming and engage the private sector to re-invent large scale production.

Experts must address markets and market structures and right size ADMARC in order to create a small, transparent and efficient entity allied with agricultural research institutions so it can effectively respond to agriculture development needs.

For far too long, Malawi has pursued policies that are only politically correct. Recently Parliament has raised concern why a government which vowed never ‘to stall feed sacred cows’ cannot release for prosecution leaders who abuse natural resources.

And it makes huge sense! What good is in championing protection of wild life if perpetrators engaged in acts similar to poachers are untouchable?

At a time when people demand justice silence compromises the promise of equality before the law. With death threats issued freely to leaders who are only doing their work, is it not a testimony that we still have no safe systems to bring truth to light?

Yet for true leaders it is better to suffer for truth than to prosper in falsehood. Dark politics begets dark nations. Even as we lament austerity millions are committed to unproductive State and travel budgets and billions are externalised in deals which likely involve Malawians.

Dear Malawians and honourable leaders, what could be more immoral than to seem to complain about abuse of resources in the day and facilitate theft and money laundering deals with a fat cut at nightfall?

I believe it was John Dryden who in his moment of inspiration said ‘beware of the fury of a patient man’. And from a film I watched 40 years ago, ‘nothing is more dangerous than a gentleman pushed too far’. Malawians are being pushed over the edge.

I maintain one verdict: Malawians are poor because they have had only bad luck in matters of leadership, with only agonising glimpses of promise.

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