Yes, Finance and Economic Planning Minister Goodall Gondwe understands public finance management better than most of us.
Yes, Gondwe is experienced—he has worked higher at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has been in the kitchen of Malawi’s finance for decades.
However, our economy, today, has worsened to a point where, not tomorrow but today, we need to question the so-called ‘brains’ behind its management.
You see, when Peter Mutharika took over from Joyce Banda in May 2014, the economy, already, was in bad shape. However, Mutharika made a commitment to get the economy back on track.
The symbol of that commitment, like his brother Bingu in 2014, was in roping in Gondwe in Finance.
For some of us with fresh memories of Gondwe’s mettle in the Ministry between 2004 and 2009, we had hoped that, somehow, things would, indeed, revert to good times.
Three years now, has anything changed?
The local currency, still on a floating spree, continues to lose its value against its major trading partners. Companies are struggling and some are closing and people are losing jobs. Commodity prices, especially basic staples such as maize, continue to soar.
If anything, with Gondwe on the steering wheel, our economic vehicle continues to slide into dungeons of abyss.
It would be foolhardy, of course, to blame it all on Gondwe. However, trust me, had it been that the economy was in great shape—like it was between 2006 and 2009—we would, again, vote Gondwe ‘Africa’s smartest finance minister of year.’
Surely, whatever happens to our economy, Gondwe shoulders the largest share of the blame.
I am of the strong opinion, like others have argued before, that Gondwe has reached his apex of reasoning.
For instance, last September, Gondwe, pressed with questions of the falling state of the economy, assured Malawians that it would improve sometime this year.
But Gondwe fell short of underlining the basis of his forecast. I am sure he said that because he was supposed to say something, even something and foolish, to a people that wanted him to open his mouth about the economy.
It is for that reason, I guess, that Gondwe, early this year, changed the hopeful tone and resigned our economy to God’s fate.
When you have an entire minister, whom we are told is experienced in financial matters, invoking God, instead of policy, in the management of public finance, you surely know that he has completely run out of ideas.
Let us face it, fellow Malawians: If Gondwe was employed to manage the country’s finances, with the current state of the economy, what would compel us to keep him on the payroll?
The reason Gondwe is still Finance Minister is the reason Malawi will remain poor for the next 50 years.
You see, amid Saulos Chilima’s relentless reform song, it does not make sense to keep somebody in the job that we have evidence he or she is failing to perform.
As a country, we have internalised the rot of keeping people in positions where they are not delivering.
We all bear the truth, and we are self-evident, that Gondwe is failing to deliver in finance.
He has failed to bring back the donors. He is failing to stir confidence in the economy. He is failing to control your wasteful expenditure. He is failing to discipline his controlling officers who, amid reforms in public finance management, are still failing to submit monthly financial reports to Treasury. The list is endless.
I don’t know about you, but I feel Gondwe, like journalist Idriss Ali Nassah wrote in My Turn column last week, ‘is old, he is tired, he has no new ideas and he is way past his ‘sell-by-date’.
I am sure, Mr President, there are many young and capable Malawians out there—even in your Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—that can bring a difference to the Finance ministry, apart from Gondwe.
I am not suggesting that Gondwe’s ouster will, in a flash, turn around the economy. No. However, I have a strong view that if Gondwe leaves, a new school thought will emerge in the ministry which will refresh how things are being done.
- The article first appeared in the Nation on Sunday newspaper