Just a few days after Malawi’s leading donors of direct budget support – European Union (EU), Britain, Norway and Germany – have ruled out any hopes of budget support in the 2016/17 fiscal year, Malawi’s renowned development expert and University of Malawi Chancellor College Professor in Development Studies Dr. Blessings Chinsinga has warned that Malawi is sitting on a time bomb a scenario that is aggravated by lack of decisive and bold leadership.
According to published reports, a secret EU assessment report released last month and the paper’s interviews with donors the Peter Mutharika’s administration has failed to meet agreed targets.
The donors who contribute 40% of the national budgetary support have mainly cited lack of seriousness on the part of government to implement public finance management reforms, hence the donor’s decision to withhold their aid even tightier.
Writing in his Sunday Times fortnight column Talking Political Economy of January 17, 2016 under the title “Sitting on time bomb”, Chinsinga said the country’s economic woes are unlikely to disappear soon since the backbone of the economy is under serious attack.
“The country’s economic woes are unlikely to disappear soon since the backbone of the economy under serious attack. Add to this, the Kwacha continues to slump sharply against the major trading currencies, a situation worsened by the absence of donors inflows that greatly act as a buffer to the Kwacha.
“ Very soon the dollar will be trading at k1000 yet our hope to arrest the downward spiral of the kwacha lies in the ‘green gold’, which unfortunately is battling the serious negative impacts of El nino” argues Chinsinga, a professor in the department of Political and Administrative Studies at Chancellor College.
Adds Chinsinga:“We are officially into the third month of the rainy season but the harvest prognosis for the 2015/16 growing season is quite scary. The crop outlook in most parts of the country is rather depressing, attributed, of course, to the adverse effects of El nino. Some projections indicate that the harvest could be even lower than last year when a good number of fields were washed away by unprecedented floods in the country’s recent history”.
The development studies professor recommends that the Malawi farming system has to be subjected to a shock therapy as a matter of urgency and that this would require total reorganization
“FISP has failed the litmus test as a magic bullet to our predicament…Land in this country is too fragmented to allow for meaningful farming. It is time to start thinking about land reforms in terms of land consolidation with the aim of creating a versatile class of farmers who can cultivate enough to feed all of us at affordable prices. Surely, we cannot thrive as a nation of subsistence farmers”, observes Chinsinga
Chinsinga however observes that all is not lost for Malawi as the country has the potential to turn things around and that this heavily lies in the decisive and bold leadership.
“We have the potential to turn around our fortunes as a country but we require a set of leaders that are willing to take bold decisions and choices. We cannot experience the transformation that we are talking about by simply tinkering with issues on the margins. We have done this for too long; it is now time to change. Let us make 2016 a turning point in the country’s development history” adds Chinsinga.
Concurring with Chinsinga’s observations on the need for a decisive and bold leadership, Nation On Sunday columnist Emily Mkamanga observes that the main problem with Mutharika’s regime is undecisiveness, which in turn makes governance to be unstable.
“It is time that government must prove that that it knows what it is doing and should stand by its decisions. It is unfortunate now that government decisions cannot be taken wholesale because they are bound to change any moment and put everyone out of step. With all due respect, Mutharika government seems not to know what the national priorities are.” Argues Mkamanga.
Mkamanga further observes that when the President came into power there was a lot of tough-talking within his government that even without donor budgetary support, the government can manage with the locally generated resources but when the going started getting tougher government retracted its earlier stance.
“Most people might have thought that the government had found a formula to prove that the 40% donor budgetary support was not really necessary. Then it came as a real surprise when it was reported that in the media that the Minister of Foreign Affairs George Chaponda was pleading with donor representatives in the country to release budgetary support.
“Honestly, this portrays a weakness in the government of Malawi because it fails to stick to its decisions. It is such unstable mindset which can force even the most trusted government supporters to say that though they like how the DPP-led government leads, but they do not know where it is leading Malawians to” observes Mkamanga.
Earlier this year, University of Malawi Constitutional Law Associate professor Fidelis Edge Kanyongolo also faulted Mutharika’s regime for lack of decisiveness on matters of public concern with a clear reference to the moratorium on homosexuality which left the citizen in suspense on what was the specific position of government on homosexuality.
“Malawi cannot rely on moratorium, a written commitment by the government that it would not arrest and prosecute anyone engaged in homosexuality. If we want the law, let us enforce it, if we don’t want it, remove it, we should move on. The government should be decisive on the matter. Its lack of decisiveness which is confusing Malawians” said Kanyongolo.
During the same period, some human rights non-governmental organizations echoed Kanyongolo’s observations on Mutharika’s undecisive leadership style in their assessment of Mutharika’s leadership style in 2015. The two rights groups observed that that 2015 was characterised by lack of leadership on critical issues of national concern a scenario that often raised more questions than answers as to whether President Mutharika was in control.
“Under the pretext of practicing servant leadership, Mutharika was silent on critical issues requiring his decisive leadership with the notable ones being the NACGATE, MSB sale, Judicial strike and many others. In the midst of such “silence” there were contradicting messages emanating from the Cabinet and Mutharika’s “village of advisers”, and in some cases contradicting his own position.
Due to such “absence” of leadership in 2015 it can be said beyond reasonable doubt that Malawi was running on auto-pilot”, read CHRR and Cedep joint statement signed by Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :