In my entry this week, readers please allow me first to express my sincere appreciation to all those who have contributed immensely to the growth of Nyasa Times publication as we are about to chalk 10 years of online publishing news. It has not been an easy journey.
An international accolade, Beffta award which I received in London at the weekend as a ‘journalist of the year’ and also Nyasa Times winning the award at Beffta, is worthy to pay tribute to the great efforts made by various people who showcased their writing skills and brevity for a common purpose during the baby steps of Nyasa Times some 10 years ago. These include Nyasa Times CEO, Edgar Chibaka, pioneer columnists Tom ‘Ambuje’ Likambale, Bright Malopa, Dr David Mkwambisi, Dr Greenwell Matchaya, Rhodrick Kalumpha, Andy Khumbanyiwa, Dr Fanwell Kenala Bokosi and Dr Nyakuchenya Ganda.
There will be more to be recognised during the 10th anniversary gala which is being organised and indeed ambitious programs are on the card including a Nyasa Times television – oops let me not pre-empt more.
The news team that we have in Malawi – you know them through their bylines – should also be commended for keeping the fire burning. I, however, beseech all of us not to rest on our laurels, but to continue informing – without fear or favour .
More about us for another day.
Now, on the topic of this article. Oil!
When the Peter Mutharika government announced in November last year of the cancellation of oil exploration licenses the predecessor Joyce Banda administration had given to five companies pending review, it promised that the results would be out within months.
But twelve months down the line since the moratorium was issued the nation and the companies involved—Sac Oil (block 1), Surestream (blocks 2 and 3), Rak Gas (Blocks 4 and 5), Pacific (Block 6) and Hamra Oil (bought 51% into Surestream) —are still waiting.
Along the way, government asked Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale to give his opinion after it was alleged that the three companies involved belong to the same people.
That opinion which gave various permutations to entangle the apparent ownership problem was given in April this year and the Principal Secretary for Energy and Mining Ben Botolo, while confirming getting the AG thoughts on the matter said then that within a week government would come up with a position on the way forward to let the exploration and investment take off in earnest.
Once again, the week has turned into months and here we are, there is silence from government. It is now a year since the review was ordered.
All the Malawian people have heard are sporadic messages from government that the matter is being dealt with.
It is completely in order for a new government to take a second look at some of the decisions of its predecessors as priorities, based on ones manifesto, differ.
The DPP government was perfectly within its rights to demand a review of the decision of the PP government.
Yet this should not take forever. As a nation we must remember and appreciate the urgency of the matter.
Oil is a scarce but strategic resource in the world economic affairs. The liquid has changed the fortunes and development trajectory of nations. It is the difference between poor countries and rich countries.
The bottom line is if we have it below Lake Malawi or anywhere else, then we must bring it out. That act alone would change the fortunes of this nation.
At the moment the world prices of oil have gone down that oil companies are losing money. Some countries have even suspended exploration and drilling.
It is hardly the best time to attract any investment into the sector.
It is common knowledge that the Malawi Government does not have the resources to explore and drill the oil and that it why it flouted tenders for foreign investors to come in and do the job that could change the fortunes of this nation.
So far none of them has withdrawn due to the delays and on that account, it would be safe to assume that they are still interested.
This is why the DPP government should have seen the urgency of the matter to do the needful and make a decision on the way forward.
There is need to clean up anything that might be deemed to have gone wrong but it should not take forever as doing nothing on this resource that can change the economic fortunes of this poor nation is not an option either.
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“Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.”-John F. Kennedy