On Friday 6 June, the President of the Republic of Malawi, Professor Peter Mutharika gave Malawians a snapshot of his first Cabinet by appointing Dr Goodall Gondwe as the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development. Reports from Mtunthama State Lodge indicate that the appointment of one Minister responsible for finances is because of the urgency and importance of the position as a new financial year fast approaches. Government business must go on while the vetting for the entire Cabinet continues.
It is again reported that the President would not find the alternative to Goodall Gondwe at this point when the economy needs serious panel-beating and rebuilding. Goodall Gongwe is the only candidate among capable thousands that fit into new economic recovery plan that cannot afford another experiment.
Probably, Gondwe is the most experienced economist on the land indeed. He is an internationally acclaimed economist who has served as General Manager of Reserve Bank, President of African development Bank, Director of IMF for Africa, Chief Economic Advisor to former President Bakili Muluzi and Special advisor to IMF managing director. Additionally Gondwe has served as Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and local government in both Bingu and Banda administrations.
But the appointment of Gondwe as Minister of Finance with the accompanying reasons tells a worrisome story about the nation’s capacity to deliver change. Since independence in 1964, the country has been training thousands of economists within the country and abroad.
To date, we have hundreds of brilliant graduates of economics, some with Masters and doctorates. Why have we failed to mentor all these and expose the most talented to most challenging experience of driving an ailing economy like ours? Why are we failing to invest in robust human resource capacity building so that the country is not short of economic players capable of scheming macro/micro economic policies?
We may say our economy is in a crisis and needs a rescue plan, but our micro-economic indicators have never been rosy over times if the grinding poverty among the majority of our people are anything to go by. Or does Gondwe’s appointment reveal our wicked tendencies of monopolising opportunities with nepotistic tendencies where only a few elites get the share all the times? If Gondwe held on to his earlier announcement of retiring from politics and refused the offer, who could catch the eyes of the Appointing Authority for this daunting task?
At over 78 years, Goodall Gondwe born in 1936 is not growing any younger and we urgently need hundreds of his replicas. He is a well of economic wisdom that must be treasured. But his appointment puts into the mirror youth development gone wrong over the years. It confirms the outcry from many young people who bemoan unemployment on the basis that the retirement age in the civil service is still too high to create spaces for new entrants.
If indeed the President could not find a better or equal artelnative for Gondwe at this point, then our country and leadership has been less futuristic. We have brilliant minds like Dr Matthews Mtumbuka, Dr Maxiwell Mkwezalamba and many more who can quickly learn and bring into the economic picture the thinking of today based on the experience of the past.
Surely, we need to invest more in the youngsters for the sake of continuity. Perhaps this should start with political parties to breed modern leaders that are capable to serve at difficult times so that we may respond decisively to Gondwe scenario. Otherwise, the likes of Gondwe need to play advisory roles to the younger generation.