Ready to loot!
It is obvious there are some individuals in the public and private sectors who are salivating at the K3.8 trillion yet-to-be-approved national budget that Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe presented in Parliament on Thursday.
They have already lined up plans about how they will steal from the budget and cannot wait for Parliament to formally pass it so that government is able to lawfully spend the money.
That is the situation Malawi finds itself in. Every year, at least 30 percent of the national budget is lost through underhand dealings.
If it is not pure theft from the public purse, then it is some contractors being paid for shoddy work which does not reflect the charges or simply being paid for not doing anything.
Such traits are so entrenched that we cannot defeat them using the same laid-back approach that has failed several times before.
Already, the Tonse Alliance administration has shown that it is not serious when it comes to fighting corruption.
Its officers have used all the necessary means to frustrate the fight by fighting those taking leading roles.
We have all seen how they have recently hounded Anti-Corruption Bureau Director-General Martha Chizuma for simply doing her job.
Senseless arrests, court arraignments and interdictions have reinforced one reality about this government; that its leaders are not willing to fight corruption in earnest because they have found themselves entangled in the vice they had so vehemently condemned before assuming power.
So, once again, Parliament will be passing a budget out of which not every penny will be done for anything beneficial to Malawians.
Evidence is all over that we are not serious about protecting our taxes, grants and loans.
You simply have to glance at several roads which are in bad shape, yet they were already issued with completion certificates, to appreciate that we are a sad lot.
In fact, had we prudently used money that goes into Account Number One, we would not be talking about our cities and towns having roads in dilapidated conditions or roads connecting districts being eyesores.
Malawi might be the only country in the world which has a main road stretching from one end to the other being terribly potholed and have edges significantly frayed.
In the awarding of contracts, professionalism and fairness are often thrown to the dogs.
After a new government comes to power, its leaders have a whole bunch of cronies and bribers who must be awarded contracts even when they do not have the capacity.
No wonder there are several projects across the country which are in unfinished or dilapidated states because they were being undertaken by firms that do not have the capacity, but were given the deals on political reasons.
It was refreshing to hear President Lazarus Chakwera recently saying his government will now stop spreading the little resources that are out there to several projects.
The President said from now onwards, funds will be being allocated for a project they can finish. That should have been the case from way back.
Of course, if we do not fight the corruption that is endemic in the awarding of contracts, even the funds that will be allocated for particular projects for which they are enough will not be enough at the end.
In the same vein, for once, we should only line up projects which we can sufficiently fund, not being too ambitious for nothing.
While there are statutory obligations that Treasury cannot avoid, it is clear that sometimes due to political reasons, experts who come up with the finer titbits of the national budget produce a too bloated fiscal plan.
Even when there are all indications that the Malawi Revenue Authority cannot collect enough to sustain our needs, budget developers have still gone ahead to come up with very unsustainable plans, especially ahead of elections as they are pushed by their political masters who want to woo voters.
At the end, we have become perpetual borrowers because we have to cushion the gaping deficits.
What is really disturbing is that the borrowing itself has not produced tangible results because of our obsession with consumption.
There are countries that used to borrow a lot, but they invested and paid their creditors and are now free. They only borrow when it is extremely necessary.
For us, it seems there is no cut-off point in terms of borrowing from both domestic and foreign creditors.
In fact, instead of the budget deficit growing smaller, so that we may eventually have a fiscal plan that will be wholly funded by our taxes, the gap is broadening.
Whatever that kind of economics is it is not helping at all.
Already, organisations such as the International Monetary Fund are uncomfortable with our insatiable appetite for borrowing, but government is not relenting, perhaps, until they can completely mortgage this country.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. Follow him on Twitter @aponje