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Selective inspections

WE are into the third week of the month of January and nineteen days into the New Year. January is always a very slow month and one that most cannot wait to see come to an end. Having overspent over the holidays, we scrape through this month on a shoestring budget, reducing all expenditure to just the basics.

What I find interesting is that no matter how many Januaries some people have survived they still do not learn to make the next January painless. It is almost like they have established it in their life that they will forever be stone broke in the first month of the year.

I was not surprised when last week I visited Mzuzu and Shoprite felt unusually very spacious because there was hardly anyone shopping. It has been the same scenario in Lilongwe for most major outlets such as Game and Chipiku.

Queues have disappeared in banking halls and there are suddenly no lines at Auto Teller Machines. The month of January has a way of bringing “order” to the city. But hang in there, just one more week to go and we will all afford a genuine smile again.

While everyone is trying to figure out how they will endure January, Minister of Tourism, Salim Bagus has been upsetting the apple cart for some businesses in the city of Lilongwe. His first victim was Sana Food Court which he closed earlier in the month due to poor sanitation standards.

Secondly, he pounced on a coffee shop called Beirut Market, unsurprisingly owned by some Lebanese nationals, for operating without a tourism license, poor hygiene and an unusual charge of allowing teenagers to smoke shisha offered alongside coffee.

While I find what Minister Bagus has done as commendable, I have a feeling that these two premises have been singled out because there are other places in Lilongwe that fall under the tourism portfolio that are worse but remain in operation uninspected.

Not to name names but I am sure the minister or officials from his ministry have seen the poor standard of toilet facilities at the City Mall, and Kamuzu International Airport but they have not closed these places. Why not?

And Lilongwe is not an isolated case because all across our four cities there are tourism places such as bars and restaurants, even hotels whose hygiene and sanitation standards leave a lot to be desired. Some even have a known reputation for being filthy but they have never been shut down.

If the Ministry of Tourism is serious about enforcing high standards, it should inspect all hospitality places and measure them with the same scale. If this is done properly and with transparency, I can bet my last Kwacha that quite a few would not make the grade.

For the sake of sincerely promoting our tourism, it is important that these inspections should not be cosmetic, done simply for likes on social platforms and some mileage in the media. And it should not just be the smalltime joints being put under the microscope, the big players too should be checked for compliance.

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