Towards a sharper development agenda in 2016
As Malawians prepare to exit 2015, it is time to advance items of agenda for 2016 for our leaders, not least President APM, Vice President SKC, the Cabinet and Parliament.
Before that, few issues of note in 2015:
Malawi faced the greatest floods in years killing over 200 people within days. Thanks to decisive action, leadership and generous humanitarian response, it could have been much worse.
The year 2015 saw accelerated Cash gate trials as several revelations surfaced about the beneficiaries, the conduits and the opportunists. Big names were mentioned by frustrated ‘potential convicts’ causing a strange mix of excited expectation and apprehension.
Sadly, little progress has been made on capturing the big guns. It is unlikely anything satisfactory will come out regarding arch-commanders and dealers who must face the law. Where are the presidents and ministers?
The year 2015 was the year of reforms; the most significant developments since 1994. School fees went up; university subsidies were withdrawn; tuition was introduced in teacher training colleges; statutory bodies became autonomous.
Finally and belatedly Junior Certificate Examinations were removed from the assessment system paving way for express transition to Ordinary Level for all students in the secondary system.
Radical stuff these reforms!
The year was also witness to costly corruption scandals, like the National Aids Commission mismanagement scandal. That was 2015.
Moving forward what should the executive pursue in 2016?
First, radical decisions must be made to save on allowances paid to public servants. If Malawi is serious about austerity then huge housing allowances, fuel allocations and travel costs are wasteful luxuries.
These are not just excessive and fraught with corruption; they nurse the very spirit of opportunism and parasitism that we should be curtailing. Yes they are ‘entitlements’ but what are entitlements if resources that could fund critical sectors massage the egos of few political elites while millions bake in the sun.
Where is our uMunthu if the bulk of hard earned resources serve less that 10 per cent of the population? Is this not the very reason the public are incensed by K300 million Kwacha car purchases – authorised or not, budgeted for or not?
This may sound a big ask but countries have cut civil servants’ salaries; others have removed superfluous privileges to save social services from collapse.
Second, high interest rates in the banks are sheer enslavement for an already bonded people, aside from slowing down investment and crippling the economy, even as living costs escalate and poverty deepens.
Government must seek ways to depress interest rates, stimulate borrowing, increase investment and stimulate public spending.
About this matter questions abound:
Why are things most expensive in Malawi? Why does this economy alone in the region have such obscene tax regimes and borrowing rates? Where in the region do you find 37 percent interest rates and leaders still claim that the economy is viable – viable for whom?
In 2016, government must utilise the so-called public private partnership to tackle fatal malaise in the economy, public finance systems and the horrendous outflow of aid money of up to 17 per cent. Who is benefiting from this evil betrayal?
Development planning must cease to be the preserve of politicians and now bring in experts to break Malawi’s curse. If Malawi’s situation is not caused by a mafia type elite screwing up everybody, then there must be a solution, and that solution we must find fast.
Third, far too much money is lost in stalled project implementation and unimaginable budget overruns in the road construction sector and in buildings too, such as the Reserve Bank in Mzuzu, which the media has covered several times without corrective action.
Granted, part of the problem is the slow nature of procurement. But who doesn’t know that procurement delays are in large part an excuse? Who doesn’t know that public servants are not in a hurry to do works that do not involve personal gains?
Millions have been committed to infrastructure development in the water, energy and transport sectors. This calls for strict oversight as part of management reforms. Honestly, should it take donors to remind government of its own role?
Fourth, the green belt initiative is in large part still talk. When I first heard about it I thought it was about surveying the low lying land from Shire North to Nsanje; from Salima to Nkhotakota to Dwangwa. I thought it was about demarcating plots and engaging medium to large scale commercial farmers to invest.
Well I was terribly wrong.
Yet to me that’s what green belt is. It is not rocket science that takes decades to develop. It is the exciting challenge that agriculture engineers that Bunda has produced for over the past 30 years have been waiting for.
Please makosana where is the problem in redirecting livelihood NGOs, companies and interested development partners towards this strategy?
Fifth, let’s agree to make the so-called ‘flood problem in the Shire Valley’ history. Design the valley for mass irrigation-fed agriculture, large scale animal production, and agro-processing industries.
In my view there is no flood problem; there is only poor agriculture planning, poor land management, exploitation of the poor and undetermined leadership. There is no national vision, except one adulterated by corrupt considerations.
I repeat what I have said before:
Call back the Chinese and the Jews to co-lead the re-engineering of the land. At least this will mean food for all; jobs for thousands and modern infrastructure for rural residents.
Welcome to 2016.
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