At the very outset, let me convey my deepest condolences to former president of Malawi, Bakili Muluzi and his entire family following the sudden death of Mrs. Esme Muluzi-Malisita on Monday, December 12, 2016.
The circumstances under which she and her best friend, Hazel Busile, died defy comprehension. I personally knew Mrs. Muluzi-Malisita and I will never forget the image of her gentle and cheerful face. I will remember Mrs. Muluzi-Malisita as a loving mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. May the almighty Lord give her eternal rest and the Muluzi and Malisita families the strength to withstand this terrible loss.
Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas is celebrated on December 25 every year as the day of the birth of Jesus Christ. In Malawi, Christmas is the most famous celebration on our calendar. On Christmas Eve, churches host Christmas choral music evenings and prayers. On Christmas Day, families prepare and share special meal.In the spirit of Christmas, families decorate their homes and neighbourhoods with lights, candles, flowers and the ‘Christmas trees’.
It is during Christmas, or the larger ‘Festive Season’, that Christian families and friends spend time together; exchange gifts and Christmas cards; and, more importantly, pray together.
Christmas is, indeed, a special day for most Malawians and all Christians across the globe. However, it is sad that this year, Christmas, with all its festive hype, might have come at a wrong time for most Malawians who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Malawians are suffering social and economic turbulence of unimaginable proportions.
For Malawians, Christmas 2016 will be like no any other Christmas before. This is not for any good reasons at all. Today, expenditure for any Malawian is a painful thought, which brings chills down the spine as we count down to Christmas. This year, festive shopping promotions are a dire insult to the majority of citizens. There is today more pronounced poverty than Malawians have ever suffered before. The economy has taken a turn for the worse.
In 2016, it is when Malawians have actually seen the real colour of destitution because on top of the empty pockets, there has also been unprecedented power outages.The overall impact of these epileptic electricity has been a drastic decline in economic activity. Malawians are suffering!
The economic policies and programs put in place by the government of President Peter Mutharika are found wanting. The economy has simply hit rock-bottom. It is clear to many Malawians and the international community that the DPP-led government lacks the necessary creativity and acumen to turn around Malawi’s economic misfortunes. To borrow the words of parliamentarian Dr Jessies Kabwila, we have “inept” leaders or opposition chief Lazarous Chakwera sums up very well – failed leadership.
The Mutharika administration’s ‘business-as-usual’ approach to dealing with state matters, including the state of the economy, crime, health, education, transport and unity does not help matters at all.
The financial system is nowhere near being healthy; the macro-economic indicators are scary, with inflation has been hovering around an average more than 20 percent for the past two years. Malawi is predominantly an importing nation but foreign exchange reserves are almost non-existent, which has pushed the foreign exchange rate higher. Businesses are dying.
In one of its recent reports, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) advised the Malawi Government “to implement structural reforms to remove supply bottlenecks, increase agricultural productivity, and improve the business environment”. One wonders how agricultural productivity can improve when agricultural inputs and improved seeds are way out of farmers’ reach and businesses are overtaxed like they are money-making machines themselves.
A huge percentage of Malawian households do not know where their next meal will come from while prices of basic commodities are rising every day.
Corruption and abuse of state resources remain rampant under the DPP and President Mutharika. President Mutharika has failed to match his rhetoric on the fights against corruption and abuse of public resources with action. Seven ministers are alleged to have stolen state money amounting to K577 million, according to reports and the president has refused to bring them to book.
Government has been reluctant to free the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) with the President retaining power to appoint the bureau’s director, which exposes it to political manipulation. A bill aimed at making the ACB more independent was shot down by Parliament, which many observers felt was the DPP’s way of shielding its ministers and members embroiled in corruption and abuse of public resources.
Mystery still exists around who killed Issa Njaunju, an ACB top official brutally murdered slightly over a year ago. Government is yet to come up with a plausible explanation on what has caused the delay to apprehend the murders, with some suspecting the dragging of feet is because some top government officials are implicated.
The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) published by Transparency International (TI) ranks Malawi as 112th out of 167 countries. According to TI, investors that Malawi so desperately needs will continue to hold back, as long as government corruption and lack of transparency remain the norm.
This year’s Christmas will be like no other. All the same, Merry Christmas and Happy 2017, my countrymen and women.
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“Look at situations from all angles, and you will become more open.”- Dalai Lama