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My choice for next Reserve Bank of Malawi governor

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On April 24 2012, the then president of Malawi Joyce Banda appointed Charles Chuka as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM). It is understood that Chuka’s term will end sometime soon. The president of the Republic of Malawi has the constitutional right to renew his term or not. My hunch based on Chuka’s public statements and the fact that it was the People’s Party, led government that appointed him, it is very unlikely that his term will be renewed. I could be wrong and be pleasantly surprised if the opposite happens.

There are no questions about the qualifications of Chuka for the job; he came to the job with close to 24 years of working at the RBM and indeed eight years’ experience as senior dviser at the World Bank in Washington DC. I do not make a secret that I did not and still do not agree with his economic philosophies. I think he is monetarist and this country does not need a conventional monetarist to run the RBM. Perhaps the compounding factor could also be the fact that both Chuka and the Minister of Finance cut their teeth as a banker at the RBM and then Gondwe went on to the IMF for a long time. Same philosophy of economics!

I remember Chuka describing me as his “sparring partner” at a meeting in 2016. Indeed, our disagreements were not personal; they were anchored in our differences in economic philosophies. If he goes, I will miss him. I will miss his openness in engaging with those that disagree with him. I will miss his humbleness in reaching out to his critics and debating with them in any space available including social media. Let me also hasten to say that during his tenure, the RBM website became better, the content has improved. The RBM under his tenure has been very generous with publishing data, updated data on a regular basis and to his credit the governor has been on the frontlines defending the independence of the bank.

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If Chuka goes, the question of who becomes the next governor will be on many people’s lips. In fact, social media is already awash with names of potential governors. It does not matter whether the next governor will come from among the three deputy governors or not, what are important are their qualifications, skills and economic philosophies. Malawi does not lack professionals. Malawi does not lack people with the PhDs or master’s degrees in the relevant fields that would make one a good governor. While there are many professionals in this country, there are a few that demonstrate professionalism.

My choice of the next RBM governor is a man or woman who is not shy to demonstrate the highest standards of professionalism: a person who is blind to the political machinations of this country, a political neutralist to the core, someone who can stand the temptation to conduct the business of the RBM to serve partisan, tribal or regional agendas. It is important that the RBM maintains its integrity. The RBM’s role in the Cashgate tainted the integrity of the bank. In a country where corruption, the perception of corruption and indeed the cases of corruption seem to be on the rise, the next governor of the RBM must be a man of proven integrity. Someone the nation can trust not to be compromised by corrupt tendencies. It is not enough to have a governor who questions decisions and actions and yet his only action is to make public statements about the ills of politicians. My choice for the next governor of the RBM is a man or woman who will defy “orders from above” if those orders are against the laws of land: a man or a woman of integrity who can exercise his or her right to resign his or her position when put under pressure to act against his professional conscience.

I know that it is the prerogative of President Peter Mutharika to appoint the next governor of the RBM and I believe that it is his desire to appoint leaders of Malawi’s most important institutions based on merit. It is, therefore, my hope that he will demonstrate this in his appointment of the next RBM governor, anything less will be a disaster. The quality of leadership in Malawi’s institutions of critical importance is needed now more than ever. Now at a time when there are doubts about the quality of management in certain important national institutions like the University of Malawi, University of Mzuzu, Admarc, the Anti- Corruption Bureau and many more. These doubts have the potential to diminish the role of these important institutions and consolidate the negativity that Malawi is subjected to by the rest of the world.

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Since the Constitution of Malawi does not grant me any powers of appointing anyone to any position of national importance or national interest, I cannot name my choice for the next governor of the RBM, that is the role of the President! All I can talk about are the characteristics that I believe should be considered when appointing the next governor of the RBM whenever the incumbent, Chuka, leaves office. Over to you Mr President!

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