President Peter Mutharika Friday sought to strike a positive and more optimistic tone when his party is teetering on the brink of a split over resignation calls and incessant power blackouts eroding economic gains made.
On paper, Mutharika’s carefully written speech was ‘bright and optimistic’ but the President delivered the address in a reserved tone, a reflection of his presidency in the last few years.
That notwithstanding, the speech was effective as it allowed the President to showcase developments achieved so far bearing in mind that he is headed for elections next year.
Mutharika began his speech, whose official theme, was Delivering Sustainable Development, with a brief victory lap which energised his base.
“This month, four years ago – we were speaking of a broken economy, stagnated projects and smashed hopes. Today, we have the economy fixed, confidence regained, projects moving, and hope rising,” Mutharika said.
Those of us, he said, who are proud of our nation should celebrate our economic efforts as a country. We all know that nothing works when the economy doesn’t work.
Mutharika also touted last week’s endorsement by the International Monetary Fund, saying Malawi has achieved macro-economic stability, inflation reduction and a rebound in economic growth.
“The International Monetary Fund has just given us a vote of confidence. This week, the IMF has approved a new Extended Credit Facility for the next three years. This means that the IMF is satisfied with our economic management…
“Nobody says we have achieved economic perfection. Nobody should say we don’t have challenges. But we agree that there is now a clear sense of economic direction and that we can count our achievements as a nation,” he said directly addressing his long time critics.
From inflation being at 24 percent, Mutharika’s administration has in the last four years managed to push it to single digits sitting at 9.9 percent as of March 2018.
The story is almost the same with interest rates which four years ago stood at 25 percent but are now at 16 percent, and the economy is projected to grow at four percent this year, up from 2.4 percent a few years ago.
Mutharika did not forget to address the energy crisis which has seen many companies post losses, people lose jobs and lives lost in public hospitals.
“Let us accept that power shortage has been a problem for many years because we never invested to solve the problem. In short, for 50 years, we never cared much that this country would have 18 million people in need of energy,” Mutharika said ignoring his critics who last time lashed out at him for making the same comments
He said his government is the first to declare comprehensive plans to end power shortage now and for generations to come.
“This country needs not less than 2,000 megawatts in order to serve our households, serve the manufacturing industry and for Malawi to start serious mining.
“That is why I have directed that we must double the current power supply of 360MW to 720MW by 2020. And we must generate at least 1,000MW by 2023. That is why we are diversifying power generation into coal energy, wind power, solar power, gas power and expand the current hydro system by building dams,” Mutharika said
All said, the President spoke for less than an hour, and showcased his government’s achievements but was mindful to say that he cannot achieve anything alone. He needs everyone on board to develop Malawi.
“The question is not whether Malawi is developing or not. The question is: which way is Malawi developing? Every time I come to address this House, we all want to know the policy direction we are taking this country.
“On this day, we all ask: where is our country coming from? We all ask: in what state is our country? And we all ask: what is our government doing?” he said.
Mutharika then turned to his critics and made a scathing attack on them for organising protests against his administration. He harshly responded to the peaceful protests across the country that demanded an end to impunity and the resignations of his two Cabinet ministers; Goodall Gondwe (Finance) and Kondwani Nankhumwa (Local Government).
The two are accused of masterminding the K4 billion pay-out initially without Parliament approval, an action that irked many and prompted last week’s protests.
“We are a nation that carries our politics too far to the point of destroying development. There are people whose only dream is aspiring to destroy this country.
“For example, the recent demonstrations were planned to trigger riots which was to lead to breaking and burning of property. They wanted to create a state of chaos, panic and fear to make Malawi ungovernable,” Mutharika said.
In a veiled reference to leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera, Mutharika said: “We cannot be Parliamentarians who make laws in this House and go out to demonstrate against our own laws. This spirit of lawlessness cannot be accepted.”
Chakwera and other senior Malawi Congress Party members joined the protests in Lilongwe and Mzuzu, which clearly did not please Mutharika.
“While we are rebuilding the economy, there are people who think of destroying it. This is unacceptable. We enjoy our freedom of expression. But our political freedom must never bring disorder in this country. We want to develop this country…” Mutharika said attracting ululations from the DPP in the House.
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