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President Peter Mutharika needs to start talking to the people

The economic and public service delivery problems currently prevailing in the country have the potential to degenerate into even bigger problems if President Peter Mutharika and his government does not carry people along as the country goes through the crisis.

With the continued depreciation of the kwacha, rising food and other commodity prices, lack of drugs in hospitals, salary delays in the civil service, frequent electricity black outs and water supply interruptions, Malawi is certainly is a state of crisis.

And the people now want answers from the government.

As things are at the moment, the government is on one side and the people are on the other as regards the point of views on crisis.

From what I’m sensing in various public talks on the problems, most people believe they are a result of incompetence, lack of attention and failure by the government.

The government side on the other hand has generally kept quiet and seems to be behaving as if everything is alright in this country.

But the fact of the matter is that things are not okay. What is even more dangerous is the growing uncertainty and pessimism among the people. And one cannot blame them as there is absolutely no information regarding the situation and what is being done to address the problems.

I wrote last week that while the government has the responsibility resolve the problems and give assurances to the people on the future, the current regime may not be entirely to blame as they inherited a country that was already heading towards turmoil.

If truth be told, absence of donor aid because of cashgate combined with delayed rains, floods and drought of early this year are the main causes of the kwacha depreciation and other economic problems currently prevailing in the country.

The electricity and water problems are also generally inherent as they could be attributed to years of neglect as well as climate change, and not necessarily a result of incompetence by those in authority at the moment.

The issues of drugs in hospitals and delayed salaries are, however, within the control of the administration. While the budget is under pressure due to the absence of budget aid, revenue collection at the Malawi Revenue Authority still looks healthy and one only wonders how the government could be failing to even provide essential medicine in hospitals and pay people their salaries on time.

The new fees and long queues at the Road Traffic Department as well as the chaos at the Immigration Department are also things that should be addressed by the government.

And the president and his government should start engaging the people on the problems by giving them information on the situation and assuring them on what is being done to address them.

Leaving the people on their own in the current situation has its own hazard as their lack of appreciation as regards causes and what is being done could make them arrive at their own conclusions and resort to unorthodox solutions to the problems.

For example, the continued depreciation of the kwacha and rising commodity prices could force civil servants and other workers to go on strike and start demanding high salaries, thereby exerting even more pressure on the national budget and on production costs of companies.

It is now up the government to take the people along it as it tries to find solutions to the problems. In that way, people could appreciate the situation as well as the need to give time and space to the administration to address the problems.

For that to happen, however, the president needs to come out in the open and admit that the country is in a crisis. He should explain to the people what has caused the problems and articulate steps his government is taking to address them. He should express what the government expects from the people as the country goes through the turbulence.

The opposition parties and civil society organizations should also be engaged and be made to appreciate and feel involved in the situation.

As people are being asked to persevere and make sacrifices, those in government should be ready to lead by example. People won’t accept to calmly go through the hard times if they continue to see those in government swimming in luxury and going about business as usual.

The president, his ministers as well as his aides and senior government officials must be ready to demonstrate that they too are going through the suffering being experienced by ordinary people.

As things are at the moment, the government is heading in one direction and the people on the other. And that is can be very dangerous. #ThumbsDown to the government

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