Politics of economics in Malawi: The case of suspended school fee hike

Economics is very complicated, not only as a discipline in academics but also as an aspect of people’s livelihood and government policy. Unfortunately, despite its complexities, economics is the most crucial aspect people’s lives, at household and government levels.

 Members of parliament

Members of parliament

At household level, I believe that every person is an economist because each one of makes choices among many options to get the best rewarding outcomes and experiences. Our economic decisions are influenced mainly by our needs.

And since our needs are too many and endless and our incomes and resources are very limited, we choose which needs to satisfy first and which ones to forgo, depending on the bearability of the consequences triggered by the forgone need or option.

At government level unfortunately, government’s economic policies and decisions are very much influenced by politics. In government, politicians do not choose options and policies that have the best economic rewards to the public. Instead, they opt for choices and policies that maximise their political advantage.

Politicians are interested in votes, and keeping themselves and their Parties in power forever. Both, the ruling Party, and the Opposition have the same goals which puts public economic benefits second, and their political ambitions first.

Looking at the recent suspension of the school fees hike, at a time when government is extremely broke, that it cannot afford to finance any of the public goods, one can easily notice the influence of politics in economic policies and decisions of government or the ‘politics of economics.’

Education in public institutions, from primary schools, secondary schools to colleges and universities, is a public good. This means that government subsidies this education with billions of Kwachas.

Therefore, when government is broke as it is now, subsidies become a burden and a major threat to economic recovery. The ideal policy under such a circumstance is to cut on subsidies so government can save the billions to efficiently support its recurrent expenditures or budget.

In fact, it does not make any economic sense, to force government to continue paying subsidies for everything, when it is broke, because the questions is, “where do you think the government will get the money to subsidize the public goods when it is broke?.”

Here is the politics by both, the ruling party and the opposition: When government resolved to hike the fees, which was an act of rare boldness, they knew that it was the best economically rewarding policy under the circumstances, but they have rescinded the decision because of the political pressure from the Opposition. But the Opposition too, know very well that the hiking of fees is a sound fiscal policy at the moment, because government must cut on costs.

But the opposition knows that Malawians don’t want to pay higher schools fees. They know Malawians are complaining. So they want to take advantage of the situation, to pretend to care for the welfare of Malawians, and present themselves as sympathisers, when it true sense, they are only scoring a political point. On the hand, government is scared of allowing the opposition to score a cheap political point on this.

The truth is that the extra financial burden that Malawians would endure with the hike of school fees, is only the trade-off of the decision, to give government extra financial resources provide the same public goods we are desperate about, like medicine and food in hospitals, food in prisons, water, fuel for ambulances, and many more.

We cannot run away from that, because every economic decisions has trade-offs, even the decision not to hike.

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16 thoughts on “Politics of economics in Malawi: The case of suspended school fee hike”

  1. khwangwi says:

    This is an informative article. However, where policies come with less detailed analysis, you run into problems. People might think that they are being taken for a ride. What govt needed to do is to explain properly the pros and cons of school fees hike. When govt believes that it can govern through policy push rather than policy sell, it runs into all kinds of difficulties. By not involving the citizens when making major policy changes with direct impact on the citizens, it exposes itself to ridicule as the oppressed citizens fight back.

    Perform a transparent analysis so that the citizens support your agenda!

  2. Kenkkk says:

    Useless article. The crucial thing is not about politics or opposition trying to score points. The crucial thing is accessibility of education to the masses. Hiking fees when the economy is on the grave hinders accessibility to education for most Malawians. It becomes more elitistic.

    The issue here is when to hike and by how much or what is the optimum fee hike that we should all be aiming at? Will hiking fees solve the education problems we have?

    What about other programmes the govt is eating money on? Could that money have been utilized better elsewhere?

  3. I disagree, in certain aspects of Mr. Sibandes article. Govt does not have money so it has to hike school fees; but the same “broke” govt has money to subsidize malata and cement to the tune of MK7 billion?????

  4. nyamayasauka says:

    poor malawi…. On the run

  5. Tito says:

    I am not sure why councils were established if we have parliament suspending fees increase. The most unfortunate thing is that our MPs do not understand how government collects money for its activities. They think if parliament passes the budget then the money is there. What they forget is that such money are budgeted from tax projections which might be collected or not. Passing the budget does not mean that you have the money.

  6. wika says:

    the writer you are very stupid .are you thinking with your head or anus?some employees are paid k20,000.00 how can they manage to pay fees at k85,000.00. please when saying something thing first of the poor.FUCK YOU.

    1. Beast Msonda says:

      Are you a mental patient? I guess you are. If you know you are paid K20,000.00 then why do you have 30 children? You should be responsible for your children and do not push that responsibility to government or tax payers. How can you have a child when you know you cannot provide him/her with all they need, let alone school fees? Malawians anazowera zaulere. What a cursed nation!

  7. DA says:

    I disagree with you in your final judgment of this being a sound economic policy. I not only think that a fee hike would have very grave consequences on the economy in the long run (as literacy rates are proven to boost a country’s economic standing), but I simply do not think that demand levels for education would remain. This is because education in Malawi is becoming more of a luxury good, therefore price elastic, than a necessity, which would be price inelastic (as it is in developed country. There are numerous reasons for this such as the fact that in a time when people can barely afford a bag of maize to feed their children, they are hardly going to spend money on their child’s education. Therefore, as Malawians cannot afford all the basic necessities of life, and because other necessities appear to be more important than education, education will be a luxury for the wealthiest bracket of society. Therefore, I believe the fall in demand for education will have more of a negative effect on government (in the short and long term) than having to subsidise it. This is shown below with small figures for explanatory purposes;

    Before potential fee hike;

    Govt subsidy- mk 100,000
    Fees- 1000
    Pupils in school- 100
    Total govt earnings/ losses- 0

    With the potential new system;

    Govt subsidy- mk 50,000
    Fees- 5000
    Pupils in school- 5
    Total govt earnings/ losses- -mk 25000 (losing money)

    And this comes on top of the catastrophic consequences of a reduced literacy rate on the economy and country as a whole.

  8. anadimba says:

    zoona mr sibande .as a tr ,it is very difficult to teach chemistry in form one with only one book, no chemicals and parents are expecting wonders from me. Koma akanati gulani galimoto yodula ya chakwera kapena toilet yodula ya bwana, onsewo zikanakhala within their spending budget. What ashame

  9. M'bobo says:

    If the question is where does the govt get money then I am sorry, where does Malawians get the money to pay such exorbitant fees. This does not make sense as govt they should find a solution. In the bible, when Jesus entered into one of houses in the city of Capernam, alot of people from the city entered the house to hear the word of GOD. But there was one person who was sick and honestly he he informed other people that he was sick and wanted to see Jesus to get healed and five people picked him. When they reached the door of the house where Jesus was jam packed and they could not enter the house. These men did not want to return back home with the sick person but found solution to make the sick person see Jesus to be healed and they climbed over the roof of the house in which Jesus was and drilled it where a sick person was thrown into and saw Jesus and got healed. Why can govt not find a solution to sort out the problem other than hiking school fees as if Malawians have got money to do so shame!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Nkombokombo says:

    People of the knowhow will present their ideas but will these guys listen? Sometimes a Mr Know it all will end up knowing nothing. The Govt makes a lot of money in taxes and levies but the usage of it is miserable. Bingu saw it that it could work why should they now fail and always put the blame on Donors? If you want to get married, you don’t expect your parents to budget for the nappies for your expected baby. There are some things which we may require to be assisted on but not everything. Kuba kwanyanya!! Do not run a Govt as a Party. Run the Govt as it should be run and people will appreciate that this Party is a responsible Party to run the Govt not the other way round. Party lines should be reserved for Party affairs and Govt lines should be of paramount. Govt decisions should be none political and should suit all Malawians not for certain Party only. The Cabinet is not a Party cabinet but a cabinet to run the affairs of Govt.

    1. kadamanja says:

      Wanena zoona vuto lake wayika Alomwe okhaokha komaso mbuli zokhazokha, what can someone benefit from Kaliati? kutukwana!

  11. Benjones says:

    Malawi is a sad story at the moment.

  12. Beast Msonda says:

    Nice piece bwana Sibande. Nothing but the truth. Both the opposition and the government know that the long-run positive-yielding result policy is fee hiking. But politics is pushing this country to adopt mediocre policies. I am very much worried. I hate Malawian politics.

  13. Tonny says:

    Even if extras money is made, will the gvt use it responsibly? Have they ever?

  14. Guantanamo says:

    This is the field u r competent mr Sibande. Not the gay category. Good script!

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