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The Nut Cracker: It does not hurt to consult

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I had just finished reading The Sunday Times of 17 January 2016. The Oped pages of the paper had two statements by the State President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika and the leader of opposition who is also President of the MCP Dr Lazarus Chakwera.

The two leaders come to different conclusions about 2016. While the Prof. Mutharika is optimistic about Malawi’s economy, Dr Chakwera on the other hand is very pessimistic.

One cannot but observe the stark contrast when it comes to their conclusions and views about the economy in 2016. Prof Mutharika concludes with the following words “with patriotism, integrity and hard work, 2016 will be the year for all of us to remember”.

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This is in great contrast with Dr Chakwera’s conclusion which reads “against these gloomy prospects, it is important for all Malawians to join hands in reminding the Executive on the need to improve spending efficiency and contain future spending pressures, reading The Sunday Times of 17 January 2016. The Oped pages of the paper had two statements by the State President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika and the leader of opposition who is also President of the MCP Dr Lazarus Chakwera.

The two leaders come to different conclusions about 2016. While the Prof. Mutharika is optimistic about Malawi’s economy, Dr Chakwera on the other hand is very pessimistic. One cannot but observe the stark contrast when it comes to their conclusions and views about the economy in 2016.

Prof Mutharika concludes with the following words “with patriotism, integrity and hard work, 2016 will be the year for all of us to remember” This is in great contrast with Dr Chakwera’s conclusion which reads “against these gloomy prospects, it is important for all Malawians to join hands in reminding the Executive on the need to improve spending efficiency and contain future spending pressures, within the confines of reduced support from development partners”.

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I do not want to be seen to support one over the other but what I know is that 2016 will be a tough year no matter what the outcome will be.

The good news is that it is within our hands to determine the outcome we want. Both are right, patriotism, integrity and hard work coupled with spending efficiency should take us to the Promised Land in 2016. However, for Malawi to move to the Promised Land there are some truths we must face. Denial, excuses and political positioning will not take the nation anywhere.

As it stands, Malawi is on an economic cliff that can fall off any time. Behind the façade of a good agricultural season, the unpredictability of the rainfall patterns this year has yet to run its course, and it might be overly optimistic to expect it to proceed smoothly.

As it is at the moment, the much talked about transformation of the economy to an export led growth economy is but a song. The status quo treats agriculture and mining as the fulcrum of diversification of the economy. However, the lack of a clear cut policy that indicates the integration of the value chains in each of the sectors and their linkages to the entire economy is very vivid in policy documents and actions.

The lack of linkage of the extractive sector to the other sectors of the economy has had adverse effects on the economic development of Malawi, if one takes the case of Kayerekera as an example.

If 2016 will be the year to remember, then President Mutharika could do better to focus on building infrastructure and institutions. This country needs strong institutions rather than strong individual office holders. These institutions will ensure that in light of the lack of additional resources from donors, revenues and benefits from mineral resources are properly captured.

The main economic thrust of the Mutharika administration in 2016 should be in the direction of increased self-reliance and considerable reduction of the country’s continued dependence on the external sector in general and the tobacco sector in particular. Another area that the President might consider is to curb the behaviours of officialdom that manifest itself in the established consumption habits if resources are to be freed for pressing development needs.

In 2015, President Mutharika and his team endured criticisms to the extent that he might feel that some people just hate him and his DPP. However, I take a different view.

It does not hurt to consult Mr President.

Consultations with the organised private sector leaders, leaders of the informal sector, the old, young, community leaders, leaders of the various ethnic groups in the country, market women, traders, professionals and student leaders should be considered in 2016.

After all, this journey is for everyone.

Soliciting ideas and ways to move Malawi economy forward is not a weakness.

Its strength lies in that by consulting the President will have the opportunity to understand the dreams, aspirations and expectation of the ordinary Malawians two years after taking power.

2016 could be the year the President Mutharika could avoid the mistakes of past leaders who felt they knew it all and thus bungled the opportunity to mobilise the ordinary Malawians for productive purposes.

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