“Out of economic hardship can come change – we are suddenly cast onto our wits and our talents and our resources and our strengths, as we lose all the choices that we once had.” – Michael Leunig, Author.
With conviction, I do believe that social economic problems do not exist everywhere that an economic event plays a role as a cause.
Now, since problems arise only where the significance of those factors is problematical and can be precisely determined only through the application of methods of social-economics.
Sadly, in the recent times, people are being overwhelmed with social issues, political problems and economic problems – and this notion of giving everything up and going to live on-grid just to have a perfect life on social media is quite unattractive and a tad crazy.
However, we forget that often, a seemingly clear clean beach has a huge amount of hidden litter.
Therefore, we need to start thinking of finding that hidden litter if we are to maintain the notion of keeping it as clean as a slate.
We have to change the way we think if we are to achieve something tangible as Albert Einstein once famously said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
There is a problem, we all know about it but we don’t want to pay attention.
There’s a popular old saying, There no smoke without fire, literally translated in as, “Utsi sufuka popanda moto.”
This saying heavily loaded with pangs and fangs of wisdom.
And, there is another adage similar in meaning and closer home is that one that says “Pati biiii pali minga.”
These two sayings may appear simple and sometimes sound like overused clichés but if we ponder on them deeply and soberly, we will get to the bottom of it all.
When you start seeing or feeling certain things that you never anticipated or envisaged in the first place, you have every right to act like you are threatened.
It is a very normal gut feeling and a natural propensity within us to trust our instincts whenever we feel threatened.
And, right now, most Malawians are losing it, there’s so much uncertainty and strong crippling sense of a failed and crumbling economy.
What we are seeing with the fuel price hike might just be symptoms and warning signs of tough times ahead. Even as am writing now, every economist will agree with me that our economic equilibrium is already out of balance and totally thrown off the rails.
And at the pace things are progressing now, we are likely headed towards a downward spiral with an out of control hyperinflation.
This means that for most of the people, they will have to brace themselves for serious hard times ahead, the ground will be even more tough as the prices of goods and services will likely continue to rise uncontrollably.
We are likely going to see a sharp increase of prices for commodities going up more than the wage increase.
Sadly, this will automatically wipe out every effort and cushion that government had been trying to put in place including the employee tax band, minimum wage increase that was instituted.
And in the longer run the president will be forced to drop some of those big social programs including his signature Affordable Input Program (AIP)
By the way, is our economy able to sustain these big handouts in the name of subsidies?
Can we be genuinely honest with ourselves for a minute and stop playing politics as usual?
Any way I might have digressed a bit.
Any way, I personally think our President and his Government should anticipate that this devastating economic climate will create panic in most citizens.
To be honest this crisis could be the most single detrimental and most challenging one for the Tonse government administration.
This is a Red Sea moment for President Chakwera and his government as we all feel trapped between the rubble behind us and the enormous challenges ahead of us.
And there is already a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty settling in many of Malawians.
This is a moment that calls for more than leadership. The President has to demonstrate the quintessence of character, poise and control.
He is the only one who can instil a sense of resilience in the people. He must come out and forcefully address the nation on how he is going to steer the nation during these tough times.
Trying to get past fear and excuses must be the first steps towards recovery and stopping the problem from getting worse.
This is a case that needs no spinning, it is above and beyond, Gospel Kazako’s and Mr Sean Kampondeni’s pay grade.
Ignoring signs and symptoms will only lock us in a state of denial.
Disregarding the obvious and refusing to take note of problems will only work to delay our national economic healing and recovery.
We have said time and again that DPP can not be used as a yardstick or benchmark.
Malawians chose Tonse to fix things up so let’s stop dragging ourselves too much into the past.
Yes most Malawians fully understand that this is not the President’s making. We Know there are many factors that have contributed to this including global trends after Covid-19.
However we also know that it’s in the midst of this adversity that we have to collectively and honestly assess our strength and weaknesses, readjust our priorities and search for new opportunities while at the same time closing some of the gaps and limit all threats by all means.
We can’t just accept it as something that can’t be fixed. We can change the trajectory and course if we collectively choose to intervene with sobriety.
Of course there will have to be sacrifices and changes in how we have behaved as a nation.
That has to start with our leadership before it trickles down to the common citizen.
We need strong and sound leadership from the office of the president and cabinet .
This “big government small idea” hasn’t worked so far. We could use a more lean and easy to manage bureaucracy.
I also think this is the time that the President has to come out clean and open about what the review on reforms the Vice President’s task force suggested.
As we understand this was carried out by experts and technocrats. So respectfully our president and his team have to stop playing politics, it is time to govern.
We need to begin by asking why our our collective behaviour and obsession with foreign goods and failure to export has contributed to our Kwacha’s unstableness and continued falling.
There has to be a reason why government has not put a tight lid on imports. We need to know why this has been the case.
We vote for the President and his government to not only govern but also to inspire the nation for new ideas.
As much as we understand that this could have been unavoidable in some sense, we also need our leaders to know that we are still counting on them to get us out of this rut and to the promise land.
That’s why we chose them and that’s what we expect from them.
What we have seen so far is Just like smoke before fire.
It’s when you see that smoldering grey and dark substance that usually you could be alerted and start suspecting a possibility of fire somewhere or a burning of some sort.
Although smoke is not fire by itself, but those emitted gas and suspended carbon particles are what alerts us of a more bigger danger or a possible inferno before it sweeps through.
Therefore every smoke should not be undermined no matter how small or big it could be.
Just a small rug burning if neglected can end up bringing down the whole house.
So what am I saying?
I am implying that what we have seen so far might be indicative enough of a national economy that is seriously under attack needing a serious rescue plan.
I know many are only worried about the fuel crisis but the truth is that this is only a pointer.
The rising fuel cost will not only affect those with motor vehicles or only those that are running businesses that demand fuel consumption.
While there will be an immeasurable effects on all Malawians, the biggest direct impact will be heavily felt at the household level with mostly the poor taking the biggest hit.
The rising transport cost will affect the daily livelihoods of all who commute from place to place for businesses and work.
It will disrupt our logistics and supply chain management, where movements of products and produces will be affected.
Why am I saying this?
Fuel prices oftentimes may determine the level of inflation in every economy.
This has a potential to exert direct negative impact on need-based expenses such as housing, food, medical care, and utilities.
What follows after is the overriding concern in the consciousness of consumers and businesses alike.
Because of that fear and expectations of further inflation, most businesses will end up adjusting prices and costs of consumables and other necessities rapidly and unjustifiably leaving the poor guy helpless.
It is that collective fear of the unknown that is prompting us to seriously start asking ourselves real questions.
Are we in the right track and hands? Was there anything that could have been done to avert and ward off the undesirable consequences?
Was this crisis reversible and the catastrophe avoidable?
When did this government know about this, and were we prepared enough?
If they knew, what were the counter measures?
It’s always difficult to get Malawians to agree on things but if there’s one thing that is uniting Malawians right now is fear.
To be honest the nation is in a state of paralysis. It’s like we have been beaten by a fast-acting venom that is causing a fast death.
Let me put a little disclaimer that I am not writing this to scare the hell out of us, and am neither a prophet of doom.
In fact am not even one of those Chancol educated economists and am not an expert in these matters, am just clearly writing from a simple layman’s perspective.
I am here just to state the obvious and these facts are not so obscure to demand one to have some esoterical powers just to understand what’s coming ahead of us.
In parting, I would like to leave you with the words that God spoke to Joshua when Moses died; “Be full of Faith and be of Courage!”
Its interesting that God chose his words carefully, he did not promise that he was going to make Joshua strong and courageous but rather he called on Joshua to not depart away from wisdom and meditate on his Book.
That is the principle, and what we choose as a nation to build on and what we allow to be the source of our strategic plan will determine how successful we will be.
Economic hardships call for a new wave of thinking or else, we will all sink to the abyss of abject poverty. All we need is but think, think and think.
The good thing is that thinking is free.
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