It is obvious that most countries which are unsuccessful have governments which rely on fire-fighting methods of solving problems and challenges. In this case, the government is reactive—it waits for a problem to happen and then try to look for solutions, instead of having strategies in place to prevent problems from happening. This, unfortunately, is the way things are in Malawi at the moment.
Time and again, in defence of economic problems in Malawi, the ruling authorities are fond of saying the challenges Malawi is facing are not unique to Malawi. It is doubtful if any sensible person can be pacified with such a statement. In fact, it does not necessarily mean that it is alright to face problems so long other countries do the same. Our government should know that the one–size–fits–all policy must not apply to challenges. Problems need to be prevented or solved as soon as possible. Nursing them just because neighbouring countries tolerate them can be retrogressive.
What is stated above is similar to what President Peter Mutharika said at the press conference in defence of the bloated delegation that some heads of State went to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) with a much bigger delegation than Malawi’s. But the question is: Do those heads of State come from countries as poor as Malawi? The answer is, obviously no.
The concern by most Malawians is the huge amount of money spent on the big delegation. This is why some quarters are interested in knowing list of delegates, and reasons for being part of the delegation to New York. Meanwhile, the argument that people such as Vice-Chancellors of public universities were privately funded by their institutions does not hold water. Such funding cannot be private because public universities such as Mzuzu University (Mzuni) and University of Malawi (Unima) are funded by taxpayers’ money.
At the moment, it can be said that the UNGA controversy plus the angry reaction by the President at the press conference raise some questions about his advisers. As it were, the President has more than enough advisers to help him. Apart from countless advisers on various subjects, he has a 20-member Cabinet. These ministers are supposed to be well-informed to give timely advice to the President.
With all due respect, Cabinet ministers could have foreseen that poverty-stricken Malawians will not be amused to see their tax money being recklessly spent. Therefore, they could have advised the President accordingly, to avoid him getting heated under the collar after being queried. In fact, if the ministers are hired on merit, it means they have special qualifications and qualities to enable them to advise the President.
It is very surprising that even with looming hunger, no medicines in hospitals, joblessness and many other problems, no adviser or Cabinet minister raised an alarm about the bloated delegations to UNGA! It is strange that no government official saw anything wrong with it. Unfortunately, the advisory role of ministers seems to be masked in fear. Instead of advising the President they opt to defend him by ridiculing those who query him, especially on national issues.
It goes without saying that for this country to progress, the President needs genuine advisers and not hero-worshippers who would see nothing wrong even when the government is obviously failing. It is wrong to assume that the President has a magic wand and that single-handedly, he can propel this country forward.