I have been trying so hard to avoid commenting on the recent aid package that our President and the DPP government boasts to have secured from China. My hesitation did not derive from the revelation that these deals were already stricken by former president Joyce Banda, but I was worried that, given our traditional understanding of aid and development, which usually ignores the big picture of the politics and economics associated with foreign assistance, somebody would think I do not appreciate the aid.
But in the spirit of the recently launched, “REFORM TO TRANSFORM movement” which drives my soul, I am compelled to say, Congratulations to the government but…
All these projects are mere political instruments and are common among leaders and governments in Africa and other developing Nations. What happens is that our leaders, and foreign governments and corporations strike deals which make huge money for foreign corporations and serve political interests of foreign governments. But then our leaders benefit by boosting their political image at home for the visible catchy infrastructure. Yet, majority local rural people, who endure much of the crushing weight of poverty, do not really benefit because such projects and deals do not address their “immediate” welfare needs.
Look, most of these projects have nothing to do with the real challenges of the suffering majority in our villages. Our suffering grandparents, and mothers and children in our villages and rural centres need permanent food supply throughout the year. They need easily accessible clinics and hospitals with ever adequate medical supplies and enough professional medical practitioners. They need easily accessible education materials and facilities. They need ever flowing clean and safe water. They need substantial amount of money in their pockets to buy clothing, shoes, salt, sugar and access similar foundational necessities that address their immediate welfare.
I know somebody does not agree with me, but ask yourself, what exactly are the priority needs of our people, and how exactly do these celebrated Chinese projects solve them? What about the jobless young people who roam our streets like useless homeless cats? What about those young people struggling with miserable jobs in our cities which do not pay them even enough to pay house rent? they walk several kilometres to and from work twice a day every day and cant even afford lunch at work etc? How do these projects solve their challenges? This is the class of people that our government must be directing its effort towards, at least in the immediate consideration. The struggling people need to be lifted up the ladder from the lower stratum of our society.
Let me provoke you this way about these projects. Imagine, just for thinking purpose, they say, a hospital at Kameza? but are we sure there will be medicine in that hospital, and are we going to have nurses there since government cant employee anymore nurses? And if at all we might have some medical practitioners there, will they get salaries? What about the Technical colleges in question? After we have trained our youths, will the economy give them the jobs or business opportunities to utilize their acquired skills? Talk about the said, promotion of value addition activities at the Ministry of Industry and Trade? what value addition and to which services or products? We are ‘not really’ producing anything to add value to, not services and not products.
The only important project that only attempts to address part of our basic need is the 300 megawatt “coal fired” power plant. Yes, we need extra generation of power and energy for industrial and domestic purposes. But this project has its major drawbacks too, especially in this age when the entire world is advocating for the abandonment of fossil fuels and espousing policies that promote clean energy projects to combat effects of the fatal global warming and environmental degradation. So we can do better on that too.
Now, understand me very well. I am not saying these projects are trash and totally useless. My argument is that these are the type of projects which politicians across the developing world use just to manage their political image and entice votes while running away from implementing bold policies and initiatives which priorities interests of the poor people and address deep-rooted indigenous challenges for good.