Smell the coffee, Mr. President!

“If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it” – original Murphy’s Law

“If anything can possibly go wrong, it will go wrong. And usually at the worst time.” – variation of Murphy’s Law

The last breath of hope for Malawi from the IMF has been snuffed out. The Extended Credit Facility (ECF) program is still off-track and might be considered early next year – 2015 – subject to another review and subsequent presentation to the IMF Board.This program, though not worth much in relative terms at a total value of USD150.0 million, is a signal to donors and development partners that a country is “good-to-go” for assistance programs and this can unlock substantial budgetary and development cashflows. But the writing was already on the wall and the IMF stand last week did not come as a surprise to most people who have been following developments closely since the donor freeze in 2013under the Joyce Banda administration.

Rising  inflation

Rising inflation

The IMF fine print indicates that the ECF program has virtually been scrapped and will probably have to be re-negotiatedat some unknown future date. In addition, all major donors have clearly stated that there will be no direct budgetary support to government in the near future. It is, therefore, only proper to call a spade a spade and construe that we could be heading for a Technical Knock-Out (TKO) as ourgovernment may, technically,not survive without financial support. How will it finance its activities and meet its responsibilities and obligations, especially in health, education and sanitation? How about the sensitive, untimely and ill-advised salary increments for civil servants, exorbitant packages for MPs and cabinet ministers?

And what about potential awkward increases of salaries and perks for the judiciary as their junior officers have – given the profile of ongoing CashGate cases – strategically held government to ransom by virtually closing all courts as part of their strike action?Billions in long overdue payments to the private sector? Payments for strategic imports at higher exchange rates, which will exacerbate the initial MK107.0 billion budget deficit? The burden of demands on government are huge visa vis its resource envelope, especially against stagnant or declining tax revenues as business activities slow down due to an unfavourable climate.It might just take a straw to break the camel’s back.

The Peter Mutharika DPP administration is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.  On one hand, its survival is threatened by continued aid withdrawal due to a still porous public financial system that led to the many cases involving over MK20.0 billion 2013 CashGate and related fraud, money laundering and corruption scandals that are yet to be convincingly prosecuted; on the other, it is paralyzed by the fear of the known and unknown skeletons in its closet that could be revealed by the German-sponsored PriceWaterhouse International forensic audit.

Speculation is rife that this investigation could implicate very senior past and present members of the party in alleged scams involving billions of kwachas from 2005 to 2012. This audit has become another pre-condition for resumption of donor support and presents the government with a CATCH-22 situation where the DPP administration now finds itself in that peculiar position where “you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”Sympathetically, one can only imagine the probable immense pressure and torture of sleepless nights that has befallen President Mutharika and his inner circle amidst a deteriorating economic scenario and strident public calls for decisive action.

In the medium to long term, we need to become economically independent by producing more goods and services for both local consumption and for export and reducing our appetite for all things foreign; the ultimate is to become a net exporter with a favourable balance of payments. Until such a time, donors will remain indispensable and illusions of self-dependence are, for now, just that; we still need them to survive.

Given Malawi’s current precarious economic and fiscal position,strong, effective leadership is vital, so here is my short-term survival strategy pro bono advice to President Peter Mutharika: wake up and smell the coffee! And urgently engage a high gear to address donor concerns. Otherwise, you could unwittingly fall prey to a subtle undercurrent that could become an over-powering tidal wave created by the gravity of peoples’ disaffection with the political elites, high-level corruption and worsening economic realities.

Simultaneously, effectively engage the Malawian people, opposition political parties and other stakeholders and bring them on your side to create one united Malawi front. Stir up the fervor of nationalistic pride against some nebulous local and international enemies that do not wish you, your government and Malawians well.

Communicate a shared prosperous vision for Malawi and appeal to the emotions of pride, self-esteem and the virtues of hard work, sacrifice and discipline. Mount an aggressive PR campaign replete with professionally-staged monthly Presidential Press Conferences and regular national press events, debates and interviews to keep the citizenry informed. Keep the connection with the people alive. Cover all the bases. Be more intelligently vocal, visible and accommodating of constructive opposing views. Continue to engage donors as equals and not with a beggar mentality. And please personally ensure that your government seals loopholes in it’s financial systems, like yesterday!

Finally, employ some “moral suasion” and provide resource incentives for the judiciary to hasten prosecution of CashGate cases and any current or emerging trials under all previous administrations without fear or favour.  In the quest to reclaim donor confidence and endure, note that beloved sacrificial lambs will have to be offered to appease “the gods.”Time is of the essence.

The ball is in your court, Mr. President.

It’s your call.

  • Feedback: [email protected]

(ChikavuNyirenda is a Senior Lecturer in Banking and Finance at The Catholic University of Malawi and contributes, in his personal capacity, a weekly column, ‘Views from the Sunset,’which is published in ‘The Daily Times’every Monday).

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39 thoughts on “Smell the coffee, Mr. President!”

  1. john k black says:

    This article is only about form, and not about content. PR campaign, engage the opposition, but it does not spell out what a president can do in his situation. The only way to bring back forex into the country in the short term is donor support, and that is conditional on cashgate reforms (possible) and investigations that will probably implicate the president’s inner circle. And that is a hairy issue for which this article gives no solution.

  2. yana mdzuwa says:

    grt

  3. Masharubu says:

    I have had a nasty day today . Galimoto yanga was nearly smashed by rioting school children in Blantyre . But after reading Che Spindulo’s comment, I could afford not only a smile, but a big long laugh . Che Spindulo woyee!

  4. Think Tank says:

    What is this BigMan? You are silent. We want to hear from you. You used to say JB was/isc clueless!

  5. REX MSISKA says:

    Let the president get lid of all the chuffs, whether politicians or officials even if they are DPP. You are the president of the Country more than of DPP.

    It is not in the time of Adolf Hitler when he used emotions for many and reserved reasoning for few. These days Mr President you have to reserve reasoning for many and emotions for few. Once Kamuzu said that he would pick a minister from the street, but not a PS. I did not understand then, but now i do.

    The problem we have at hand is so simple. We have politicians who think they are the bosses and need to be worshiped and served, and thinking that the power is theirs and not the people’s who voted them in. Mr President, i love you as president of the Country and not of DPP. The world is judging your performance not as president of DPP, but as president of the Country, Malawi. MALAWI I SAY.

    How on earth can one abuse the citizens who are so humble, so warm hearted! I was blessed at

  6. Another thought says:

    APM has very limited leverage on how the economy can turn around. The solution is simple, prosecute the cashgate cases swiftly and allow the audit dating back from 2005 to be conducted. Prosecute those that will be found to have done wrong even if they are DPP executives. The unfortunate part of all this is that DPP will cry politics instead of smelling the coffee and realizing that this is the mess they left JB with. Also it’s sad to see that donors are pushing causes which Malawians should have been in the fore front pursuing. We need to hold our Government to account for every penny that it spends. But like one friend of mine said, people complain about cashgate not because it’s bad, but because it wasn’t them who had the chance to steal the money

  7. Kalulu says:

    Wagwanayo wagwanayo

  8. Matako says:

    Easier said than done. The writer of this piece is right on the mark. The problem with our country is not due to lack of solutions. But rather it is due to lack of political will by APM. He does not have enough guts to put his own balls on the barbecue. He knows that allowing the system to operate with expedience would mean roasting his own balls faster than he would other wise have liked. He is praying that the judiciary will delay these cash gate cases even longer so he can buy time. Unfortunately time is not one thing that is not on his side. He either concedes to the pressure of doing something or he is damned if he doesn’t. The heat is on. APM should forget about political appeasement. He should use his executive powers and put his own balls on the burner with a hope that maybe just maybe Malawians as docile as we are can easily forgive and forget. . after all 4 years is a long time for Malawians to forget. Just imagine it wasn’t too long ago when Bingu put us through a similar painful ordeal.

    1. Jabulosi says:

      Unfortunately APM has surrounded himself with the same people who were ill-advising his late brother. His repeated statements are like a president who is Clueless. He talks by jumping from one topic to another without a clear vision of what he wants to bring across. He leaves listeners wondering if he is a presidential material.

  9. Vyachalo says:

    Anthu ena akunena kuti APM ndi oziwa mulungu. APM sioziwa mulungu chifukwa anambela mavoti.Mulungu safuna kuba. Tikunena za CASHGATE kodi sinkuwona kuti anthu sopano akuyimbindwa milandu. A malawi tivutika chifukwa otisogolara ndi wakuba. Tisalire

  10. Mama says:

    MEC BOSS OWES MALAWI AN APOLOGY. SPIT THE BUN AND APOLOGISE. SINCERELY NOT WITH CROCODILE TEARS.

  11. Muvoviwa says:

    you know what. take K25 billion from 2014/15 FY budget for FISP, invest in infrastructure for Green Belt Initiative. Import equipment from China, in 90 days equipment will have come, waive duty, start installing Pipes by June Next year 2015 farmers will have started growing Maize, Legumes under Irigation. By October 2015 will have started exporting processes Legumes and Export to generate much needed Forex. The Maize harvested under Green Belt Initiative will for sure compensate for the subsidised Fertiliser to small holder farmers. I rest my case.

    1. Martin Luther King Malawi says:

      Sorry my friend, if you were talking to Israelites or Egyptians, they could hear your suggestions, a “desert can be turned into a land flowing with milk and honey”… But talking to these cashgated dunderheads… What a waste of time. Let’s just wait and feel the pinch of this coming crisis… Sorry Malawi.

  12. Malunza says:

    The president is sleeping.

  13. Fathara says:

    A MALAWI MUSADANDAULE MULUNGU WATHU NDI WAMOYO PAMOZI NDI MWANA WAKE YESU. A MALAWI NDIYAKHULE MOTELE MULUNGU AMAYIKONDA MALAWI, TAGANIZILANI KUMENE TACHOKA KUTI TIFIKE PANO, TADUSA MUZAMBILI TAFIKA LELO. A MALAWI TASALA PANG’ONO KUTI TIFIKE KU YELODAN, PANOPA NDIYE PAMENE ZITHU ZILIBWINO KWAMBILI TASALA PANG’ONO KUTI MALAWI TIYAMBE KUZIDALILA TOKHA. A MALAWI TINGATHE KUYENDESA ZIKOLI OPANDA A ZUNGU NDIZOTHEKA NDIPO ZIKUTHEKA. MALAWI ALI NDI SOGOLO LOWALA KWAMBILI. ZIKUCHITIKA BWINO KUTI PULESIDET WATHU NDI PETER AMENE AMAKHULUPILA MULUNGU, NDIPO INU MULUNGU WATHU TIKUZIWA KUTI KUZELA MWA PETER SATANA TITHANA NAYE NDIPO MALAWI AKHALA WA NKAKA NDI WUCHI. NTHAWI YAKWANA YOTI TIYAMBEPO KUZIDALILA PATHOKA, SIZOWONA KUTI PA ZAKA 50 TIKHALEBE TIKUDALILA ANTHU AMAYIKO AKUNJA. KWAZUNGU PANO ZITHU ZINAVUTA, ANASAWUKA SANGATI THANDIZESO. NDIYE KUTI MUWONESESE MULUNGU AKUYAKHULA KUKUWUZANI A MALAWI KUTI TIYAMBE KUZIDALILA TONKHA, NDIPO PANOPA ZOSANGALASA NDIZAKUTI TAYAMBAPO, UBWINO WAKE MULUNGU WATHU KUMWAMBA PAMOZI NDIMWANA WAKE YESU ALIPASOGOLO PATHU KUYENDESA ZIKOLI, A MALAWI SATANA ASAKUWOPHYEZENI PANO ZITHU ZAYAMBA KUYENDA BWINO.

    1. Martin Luther King Malawi says:

      Was cashgate a God instituted action…? The answer is no! We are reaping what the cashgaters sow. How to solve it is? Is to repent… That is ending cashgating, and returning what was stolen…. The 92 billion and the 20 billion, otherwise our God is a God of order, God of justice and Love and Love disciplines.

    2. Jabulosi says:

      Dunderhead!!!God helps people who help themselves.There are about 200 countries in the World, Why should God single out Malawi ??? Kulota basi!!!!

    3. Greencardless Malawian says:

      Kudzinamiza kumeneku. Mulungu nthawi zina amalola kuti zoipa zichutike kuti aphunzitse anthu ake phunzilo. Mulungu analola kuti Saulo akhake mfumu ngakhale sanali odzodzedwa ndi mulungu kona analola chifuniro cha anthu chichitike kuti awaphinzitse phunzilo. Mulungu yemweyo analola DPP ndi Perer kuti abele mavoti koma sanamudzodze Peter kukhala woyenera kulamulira dziko lino nkamba tikuona zovuta izi. Tiyeni tipemphere kuti pakutha pa phunzilo ili mulungu atipatse mtsogoleri woyenera pamaso pake, osankhidwa ndi iye mwini ndipo Malawi idzakhala yodala

  14. peter says:

    Tough times indeed! Do we have leaders who are equal to the task?

    1. Malunza says:

      Peter is not a leader, look what happened at the Education Ministry when he was minister, Judiciary when he was minister, Foreign Affairs when he was minister……Musova a Malawi.

  15. Kings says:

    You are right Quantas, home grown policies and intensifying local made products with aim of export can help heal our economy. Mtambo and Trapence offer advice before criticism. Who told you activism is all about noise and offer no solutions, what an old African school of thought. Attach your discontentment with advice.

    Mtambo which school did you go to? how long was your induction with Undule? go back and ask him for some books instead of loitering and boozing around!!!!!!!!!

    1. Ambwana says:

      Why do DPP diehards always sing the tired song of ‘offer solutions’? As you can see from the article, and also from some frank comments cabinet ministers have made the solutions are already there. It is implementing them that is proving to be extremely difficult. APM is failing to show courageous leadership in this regard.

      The solutions are twofold: (a) Investigate the period from 2005 to 2012 – prosecute the thieves and recover stolen funds (b) tighten controls so that another cashgate or DPPgate should not happen again. These are the solutions. There is no point just focusing on JB’s cashgate alone.

      DPP are sadly mistaken if they think their wanton stealing between 2005 and 2012 will simply be swept under the carpet…

  16. Nobel says:

    It was a wishful thinking to become Malawi’s president. APM is yet to prove to us that he can be a leader. Remember that things fell apart at CHANCO (acedamic freedom) when he was minister of education, foreign relations broke and British high commissioner was declared ‘persona non grata’ when APM was foreign minister; at the same time Malawi & Mocambique relations deteriorated…… etc. So Peter is yet to prove to us that he’s on the ‘wheels of Malawi’s leadership vehicle’ otherwise Malawi will be another Zambia!

  17. Che Spindulo says:

    Peter Mutharika can be likened to a 4 year old child who sees a packet containing a condom and starts crying for it . The father who made the mistake of leaving the packet where the child could see it, reluctantly gives it to him so that the child can stop crying . Now that the child has the condom in it’s hands, will it know what to do with it?
    Peter is a guy who wanted the presidency at any cost . But he never, for once, prepared himself for what he was going to do with the presidency once he got it .

    1. Nalimata says:

      @ Spindulo

      Cheers Spindulo. What a philosophical way of putting it? . This is exactly what we have before us with our president

    2. The Patriot says:

      Che Spindulo woyee! palibenso, right on the mark! DPP and APM have no clue on what to do with the economic crisis we are in now!

  18. PM says:

    What more can I say, zimvere mtolo. Some Malawians are very passionate going by this piece. Unfortunately politicians listen to only fellow politicians, members of their inner circle, and tribesmen.

  19. The Truthful One from the West says:

    Did Peter Mutharika and his DPP base their campaign promises to Malawians on the resumption of budgetary support when they take over govt? If so then they made a strategic blunder. It was clear donors would not resume budgetary support soon. And donors are also taking into account DPP’s terrible record to April 2012. My advice to DPP is deliver your promises to Malawians. However increasing fees and charges by over 300% is not delivering on promises but punishing Malawians. And why, if I may ask, did Goodall Gondwe reduce income tax by 3% in the telecommucations sector where abnormal profits are being made?

  20. Disaster says:

    This administration is in a deep slumber!!!!

  21. The donors also knows that the fish rots from head to tail the donors can not waste spicies in a rotten fish. I can smell some one resigning or vote of no confidence coming in malawi because things are not inplace

  22. kingcobra says:

    Thats the result of putting an old useless man into power,malawians deal with the courts the judges who declared him winner after losing,How can someone be a leader at 74 ? my foot

  23. Quantas says:

    At a time when we need to stir local production for import substitution and export, why is government not responding to the crisis. I will tell you, we need locally made Fertiliser, we need to increase ethanol production to allow for 100% replacement of petrol in cars and 20% of diesel in trucks. We need to push for growing of jatropha to substitute importation of diesel. We need more sugar estates to grow cane for sugar to export and ethanol to fuel our cars, ofcourse also to generate employment. Mr. President, if you don’t know how, check me out.

    1. Martin Luther King Malawi says:

      Quantas… Wish you were made a presidential advisor, unfortunately we are talking to these expired politicians, they are just thinking of more cashgating… These are the innovations that Malawi needs, federal government loading….!!!

  24. ujeni says:

    The President is on an indefinite honeymoon. He will wake up when demonstrators are on his doorstep like in Bukinafaso.

    1. Jabulosi says:

      Children have already started demonstrating, What will happen then when parents who are desperate and feeling the pinch join in?????? Mr. President Wake Up!!!!!!

  25. John says:

    I thought someone needs a nose to be able to smell something? Does he have one?

    1. kadamanja says:

      A huge wide one but it is blocked. He cant listen. He is sturbon!

  26. MMalawi says:

    This guy thought he can bring his crooks and mock JB? Alas you have to be very visionary to be President, at least if you are to avoid heart attacks or is it cardiac arrests!!! Just wanted to be president?? kikikiki

  27. Andy Ndaonazino says:

    Unfortunately our President smells Ndata Mansion………………….

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