BBC report: Malawians surviving on Bonya as Goodall says people poorer

A report on BBC Focus on Africa television programme monitored by Nyasa Times on Thursday captured Malawians facing economic hardships as the results of devaluation and consequent floation of the kwacha currency.

The poor – 39% of the 13 million citizens, living on less than one dollar a day – suffered much from the devaluation, which economic experts say it was a necessary evil to lure the International Monetary Fund support and donors to resume aid payments.

Courtesy of the existing hard economic times, the BBC reported that small fish called Bonya is gradually becoming Malawi’s staple food as millions of people have found solace in it for being cheap besides its easy availability in almost every market across the country.

“The smallest cheapest fish known as Bonya is usually eaten by the poorest in the society but now a main stay at every dinner table across the board,” BBC’s Lerato Mbele reported from a market in the capital Lilongwe.

Selling Bonya at Limbe market.- Photo by Jeromy Kadewere/Nyasa Times

According to BBC, experts say that the fact that more Malawians have resorted to buying Bonya is a result of how badly the economy has declined.

BBC’s Mbele interviewed Malawi’s Minister of Economic Planning, Goodall Gondwe, who said that people are becoming poorer than they were before.

“There is no doubt at all that because of the prices are increasing they have intended to be poorer than they were before and therefore something ought to be done to help them,” Gondwe, a former IMF vice president for Africa region, who presided over years of economic growth which averaged 7 percent, reduced inflation to single digits before late President Bingu wa Mutharika dropped him from cabinet.

Recently, President Joyce Banda hired him as Economic Planning Minister to help fix a sputtering economy.

Banda took office in April 2012 following the sudden death of controversial Mutharika whose relationship with Western governments and aid agencies had deteriorated after refusing to devalue the Kwacha.

The first female Head of State in the developing southern African nation has since launched a drive of measures including an economic recovery plan. Gondwe told BBC that Malawians would soon start to reap the rewards of her recovery measures.

“I think within a very short time because of what we are doing, we will have an economy that will be a thriving economy and we will infact  lead us into high double digit growth rate that we had some five  years ago,” said Gondwe.

However,   Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) has called for nationwide demonstrations, set to take place on 17 January, to protest the rising cost of living.

“These reform measures are hurting consumers,” said CAMA boss John Kapito.

He is calling on government to control the movement of the kwacha as well as the suspension of the fuel pricing mechanism.

Kapito is challenged by CEO for Malawi Confederation of Chamber of Commerce, and Industry (MCCCI) Chancellor Kaferapanjira, who notes that the economy was already showing signs of revival, saying the Banda administration needs “time to implement some of the measures put in place.”

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