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The stupidity of intelligence!

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There is a book by Elias M. Awad whose title is The Stupidity of Intelligence: What Happened to Common Sense? published in 2015. The title seems to be a contradiction in terms. Most people believe that the opposite is of intelligence is stupidity. But is that the case? The Oxford dictionary defines intelligence as “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.”

So, an intelligent person is a person or being with the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills. In the same dictionary, stupidity is described as “having or showing a great lack of intelligence or common sense”. The main conclusion of the book is that stupidity is an oversight and lack of thought. It is the tendency of people to make the same mistakes over and over again. Last week, two events in Malawi reminded The Nutcracker of this book.

On Friday, the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development held a validation meeting for the draft Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III. It is perhaps important to remind Malawians that this ministry’s mandate is to formulate economic and fiscal policy and manage financial and material resources of the Government of Malawi in order to realise balanced and sustainable economic growth and to reduce poverty. It is therefore interesting to note in the strategy one of the Malawi has essentially been a consuming and importing state with very little being invested into industry, technology and private sector activities.

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Do we need a strategy to know that the high interest rates are part of the problem? Is it not the same ministry at the helm of policies that attract the wrong type of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)? Does Malawi expect that celebrating the coming into the country of the likes of KFC, Game, PEP, Mr Price and SPAR will enhance manufacturing? These entities will simply be importing goods from their home nations into Malawi in the process stifling the efforts of hard-working Malawians wanting to manufacture and compete with these entities that will most often have a plethora of incentives.

Have people noticed that the type of economic policies in place have made it possible to offer permits to foreign investors who have come to Malawi to open saloons and barber shops? If someone is in doubt, check the records of who owns one of the saloons and barber shops at the famous Gateway Mall in Lilongwe and Area 10! There is even a barber shop opposite Standard Bank in Lilongwe Old Town which has Asians on a work permit to shave beards and bald heads. Do we really need foreigners to cut our kinky hair?

The other challenge mentioned is that budgeting and resource allocations have not strictly adhered to the stated national priorities. Search me. Is the ministry responsible for allocation of budgets the one complaining against itself? Is it not the Minister of Finance who presents the national budget and makes the allocations?

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On Thursday morning, there was an advertising booth at the famous Game Complex in Lilongwe organised by the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar). The advertisement event was for the University’s Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Centre. The Nutcracker happened to be at the booth when a parent came to seek information on the courses offered. There was a heated debate on the entry requirements for the course being advertised. The four courses offered under this programme are bachelor of science degrees in four areas: agribusiness management, agricultural extension, agricultural economics and agricultural innovations.

The parent did not understand the logic of the requirements for the degrees of agricultural economics and agribusiness management. According to Luanar, a student qualifies for the course if they have six credit passes including English language, biology, mathematics, physical science/physics and chemistry at Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) or any comparable O-Level qualification for the generic course.

The Nutcracker found himself on the side of the parent in this case. What is the intelligence in the stupidity of requiring a credit pass in biology, physical science/ physics and chemistry for a course in these two courses? Where is the common sense in the intelligent professors running Luanar? Does this not sound like the stupidity of intelligence to think that a student who has distinctions or credits in business studies and/or agriculture at MSCE level would not qualify to study these two courses and a preference is made to someone who has distinctions or credits in biology and chemistry?

Tell me the intelligence in the university having a bachelor’s degree that produces secondary school teachers to teach agriculture in secondary schools and yet does not consider a distinction or pass in agriculture enough for entry into any of its courses? What is the point then of having business studies and agriculture as examinable subjects at the MSCE level if the only university of agriculture in Malawi thinks it is not important to enter its corridors to study agricultural economics and agribusiness management?

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