Browsing through an article by a guest journalist J. Bradford Delong published in the ‘Daily Times’ of the 7th of January entitled ‘Try Everything’ several issues left me introspective and reflecting.
However what crossed my mind most was the spelling out by renowned economists of doom for the global economy that might incidentally be headed toward a crash, at least as dangerous as the one that initiated the historic ‘Great Depression’.
Alarming as that might be, what also intrigued me from a Malawian perspective was how given this mammoth scenario of a global recession of such magnitude, America through Roosevelt changed the course by adopting a simple yet radical strategy – ‘Try everything’ that might boost demand, increase production, or reduce unemployment – and keep doing the things that work. Simple as such a proposal might seem, America was salvaged from the shackles of impending doom.
It requires no economic magic to decipher that Malawi and several other sub-Saharan and even global economies like Greece and even to some extent Russia are gliding toward economic dire straits. It also requires no economics maestro to spell out that deficit spending and inflation raising strategies only spell doom for an already ailing economy.
It is also unequivocal that such a scenario especially for Malawi calls for consented effort rather than pulling each other down and finger pointing to map a strategy and serve the nation from impending economic catastrophe. Inquisitive as the Maestro is, the million dollar question is how we could salvage our economy from crumbling deeper into recession and eventual crisis. Roosevelt according to Delong proposed – bold persistent experimentation….. taking a method and trying it and if it failed admitting it frankly, and trying another, but above all, ‘Trying something’.
This stringent approach is in antithesis to upholding a ‘laissez faire’ attitude that things will work themselves out or rather ‘resigned fate’ that things can’t be availed on the part of leadership. We need to accept the reality as a nation that economic recovery miracles are a rarity or non-existent.
Economic woes need solutions fast and that is a brutal fact that we can’t run away from. So what is Malawi doing or rather what do we need to do ….. what direction should we take. Several options have been touted from different angles ranging in proposal from revamping the agricultural sector, prioritizing mining, boosting the tourism sector across the continuum to public service reforms.
What however seems to be the hub from a grassroots viewpoint is the proposal on community colleges and emphasis on empowering the youth across the board. This comes amidst the observation that unemployment as well as underemployment is becoming a crisis yet the myriads of youth who are being underutilized could serve as elixir to our economic woes and actually turn around the situation for the better. That is so long we have the political clout to implement what we propose and fast enough.
There are projects like intensifying our bid for the mining sector, implementing the OVOP programme by fostering industrialization, scaling up tourism by building as proposed multi-facilities across our resorts, broad commercialization of the fishing sector, integrated rural development programmers with incremental rural growth center facilitation to absorb more rural oriented youth and curb rural -urban migration and promotion of agro-processing firms and factories through the same OVOP initiative.
Apart from curtailing unemployment such initiative could boost economic growth and exponentially foster our export base with the potential to revamp our economy so long there is that will and political clout wanting of lip service, double standards, and laissez faire mindsets.
Bearing in mind that such initiative also requires that we lure lots of investors into our nation, another stumbling block could be our restrictive tax regime. Such strategies as tax-free zones especially for the remotest of the remote areas for investors interested to open up such zones would be fruitful for Malawi. Easing up on restrictive taxes can help lure reluctant but potential investors into our nation.
Opening up such zones through the OVOP agro-processing industrialization venture, mining ventures, tourism, agricultural commercialization and what have you could help ease unemployment, reduce rural-urban migration and its associated vices such as crime and vagrancy and above all else could without question help revamp our ailing economy .
A laissez faire ‘business as usual’ approach to crises or worse still ‘resignation to fate’ wont avail matters. Let’s ‘Try Everything’ as Roosevelt persistently strategized with America in light of the ‘Great Depression’ and maybe Malawi would sing a new song.
- Marisen Mwale is a lecturer in Psychology at Mzuzu University
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