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The road to self-destruction

Dear Pain

If Malawi were a road, it, surely, would be the kind that takes one nowhere.

It would be one that, though tarred and promising, only takes one to the valley of poverty.

More so because, as at now, citizens’ mountain of hopes has tumbled into a plain of misery.

It is as if, though promising when it became independent from Britain in 1964, Malawi – formerly Nyasaland— has been a mantrap anyway.

What looked attainable in 1964— things like progression on the socio-economic front— now looks like something sandwiched between the short range of our dreams and the long range of our reality.

That is why, despite borrowing heavily from local and foreign donors, Malawi is still reeling from poverty— the nauseating type.

What else can I say when, right before our own eyes, the total figure of our public debt reached K6.38 trillion in March 2022 from K5.65 trillion in June last year.

This, Dear Pain, spells disaster. Call it disaster ‘manufactured’ in Malawi.

Why? Solutions are there and duty bearers know them. I mean, Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe knows the solutions. Technocrats in his ministry know them.

But, somehow, those we have entrusted with power seem not to care. If they care, all they care about is them and not us, lesser mortals.

For example, while the country has been beset by power outages, fuel and forex scarcity, upward trajectory of inflation, worsening economic conditions and labour agitations, our leaders seem preoccupied with foreign trips.

When they see money, they see themselves making a foreign trip instead of thinking about investments that can be made as one way of pulling Malawi out of poverty.

That is why I cannot believe Gwengwe when he says the government has put up strategies to reverse the situation, citing expenditure control measures, eased access to finance, skills and markets, expansion of social protection programmes, restoration of Kapichira dam, Extended Credit Facility programme discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), negotiations bordering on additional lines of credit for fuel importation and export diversification.

I cannot believe government officials on this because I know that they are fond of speaking on such issues but are less inclined to action.

That is why, while the world has been surprised to see Malawi’s debt levels rising and rising again, which often happens with an abnormal curve, our own leaders seem to believe that this is normal.

But, then, it should not take people like International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to tell us that unsustainable debt makes entry into Malawi difficult for facilities such as the Extended Credit Facility. She said recently: “When I look at low income countries, I am really worried. A country like Malawi; no fuel, no food and yet debt is so unsustainable, makes entry to the IMF more difficult.”

However, Malawi’s predicament has not surprised economist Milwad Tobias, who says the economy has been going through the doldrums. He blames the situation on the government which, he says, does not want to take advice on how the economy can be revamped. We would not have reached this far if the government took heed of economic advice from experts. The way things are being done now, we should brace for tough economic conditions.”

He is right.

But, then, this is not the right time to start mourning; this is time for our policymakers to start living by their word.

All Malawians need are leaders who have the interest of the ordinary Malawian at heart. Leaders who are committed to leaving the country in a better position than they found it.

Leaders who are committed to ensuring that children from resource-constrained households enjoy access to education. Leaders who will promote people on merit, and not based on ethnic connections.

Malawi is tired of public officials who feel happy lining their pockets with cash while millions of people are languishing in poverty.

For far too long, we have been betraying the ‘Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa’ moniker because no one can keep on smiling on an empty stomach.

In fact, no one can keep on smiling when they know that each individual in Malawi owes some local and international organisations in excess of K600,000.

Let us find a way out of our current predicament. That way, our pain may not be long lasting.

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