Since Saulos Chilima launched his United Transformation Movement (UTM) he has been consistent in articulating his movement’s vision for Malawi. He has been clear on what UTM wants to achieve and the steps to take how to achieve the goals unlike his rivals President Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera, This has put him ahead of his competitors whose statements on employment creation, resuscitating the economy and improving the welfare of Malawians is rather vague.
Critics have dismissed his assertion that he will create one million jobs in one year. Rather than just dismiss his statement as mere political, one has to analyse critically whether this is achievable. Partly he has explained the proposed measures to achieve that goal. Whether he will live up to his promises or not can only be judged when he is in office.
In the run up to 2014 tripartite elections, President Peter Mutharika, among other issues, promised to construct five universities and trim presidential powers.As it has turned out, he has failed to construct a single university and he has refused to reduce his powers. He has even misused his powers by appointing people to positions which other bodies are mandated to do. Yet President Mutharika is a professor of law and has taught in American universities!
For now, UTM has a better manifesto [than MCP and DPP] which is inspiring a lot of people. A number of aspirants who wanted to stand on MCP or DPP ticket have moved to UTM. Chilima’s campaign trail is inspiring and opening the eyes of many people about the endless opportunities to create jobs and to turn around the economy. He is reinforcing the fact that Malawi is where it is today mainly because of poor leadership, corruption and mismanagement.
It is clear from the measures he is espousing to arrest unemployment and to revive the economy that state-owned enterprises will be at the centre of economic activity which the DPP has misused in their economic agenda. DPP is so obsessed with foreign investment to create job and improve the economy that it is doing little to mobilise local resources to create jobs or make SOEs perform to the expectations of Malawians and drive the economic agenda.
Chilima’s call to revive the closed down industries, his focus for value addition, the use of co-operatives to drive development is certain sectors and promotion of small scale businesses makes sense in creating jobs. Malawi is an agro-based economy and a lot of industries can be created to make use of local raw materials to manufacture products. It is ironic that Malawi has abundant fruits [some of which just rot], cotton, minerals [such as coal], but does not have industries to manufacture juices, clothes, fertiliser, vehicles or generate electricity from coal.
Malawi has a beautiful lake that span over 500km, but does not have a single three or five star hotel along the lakeshore, let alone cruise boats [save for two passengers ships MV Chilembwe and the dilapidated Ilala]. When you hear Chilima talk about constructing hotels, setting up some industries such as boating making and fish processing plant in Mangochi, one gets inspired that this will boost tourism and create employment.
I have maintained that UDF and DPP made a huge mistake and did a huge disservice to Malawians to accept IMF/ World Bank sponsored privatisation programme in which so many SOEs were closed down. Chilima, rightly so, has promised to bring back some of the companies. When a government closes down manufacturing industries or privatises strategic institutions you know you are being led by visionless leaders.
Again, his call to change the way we do things is a move in the right direction. The president should not have a huge entourage or large convoy. It is costly. The police or soldiers should not be made to stand along the presidential route for 5 hours just to wait for the president to pass in the name of security. They are human beings, they get tired. Selection to university should be based on merit and not quota system. Some brilliant students have been made to suffer because of this system.
The pass rate [cut-off pass /fail mark] to select learners from primary to secondary school should also be standardized for all the regions, and not different pass rate for different regions. Currently, the pass rate for the South is 28%, Centre is 40% and North is 50%. This implies that many pupils from the South are selected to secondary school with very low marks.
The DPP government has been promoting regionalism, nepotism and tribalism at all levels of society in a variety of ways which Chilima’s UTM has promised to eradicate. Chilima’s resolve to provide solutions to problems, professionalise the civil service and lock up corrupt politicians and officials when ushered into office has also impressed many Malawians who ‘smell’ a better future.
Indeed Malawi needs to do away with regionalism, nepotism and tribalism that has been characteristic of the DPP government. We need a government that can build a society that will offer equal opportunities to all and treat its citizens equally. Any political party that practices discriminatory policies will find it very difficult to win votes.
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