Having combed with a fine toothcomb through The Daily Times’ story about Economists Association of Malawi (Ecama) suggesting that President Peter Mutharika lied on the economy, I have failed to come across a statement where Vitus-Gregory Gondwe, the author, quotes Ecama’s president Henry Kachaje as saying “Mutharika lied on the economy”.
Which is why I find Ecama’s rambling rebuttal in The Daily Times needlessly provocative, lacking coherence and direction, contradictory and built on shaky ground. And a waste of resources.
Perhaps, Ecama could have stated their case better by publishing Kachaje’s presentation for us to judge how ‘unprofessional’ The Daily Times or the journalist were, if at all. They didn’t! I would have expected them to, at least, reproach Gregory for quoting Kachaje out of context or inventing quotations. Shame, they didn’t either!
Nowhere in the story does Gregory quote Kachaje directly as saying Mutharika lied to the nation about the economy. And nowhere in its published tantrum does Ecama say Gregory misquoted Kachaje. What the journalist used was inference or interpretative journalism. If someone says “John does not say the truth” it is not farfetched to infer that John is a liar. Just as there are million ways of skinning a cat, they are even more of saying someone is liar. Kachaje used one of those.
Gregory directly quotes Kachaje, on economic growth, as saying: “How can we be sure that ‘the economy is expected to rebound to higher levels averaging 7 percent’ when we have just experienced the worst floods in recent history and agricultural output is expected to drop by 30 percent?” In his State of the Nation Address in May, President Mutharika said on the subject: “It is estimated that the economy grew by 5.5 percent and it is expected to rebound to higher levels averaging 7 percent or higher from next year.” Interpretation? Mutharika lied.
On inflation, Kachaje rhetorically asked in his presentation last week: “How will the interest rates go down when inflation is unlikely to drop significantly? How will people’s disposable incomes increase when they will be buying food at higher prices?” He was, in all probability, responding to what Mutharika said in that address: “We expect annual inflation to fall to 16.5 percent in 2015 compared to 23.8 percent in 2014. The decline in inflation is expected to increase people’s disposable incomes and interest rates are also expected to decline in 2016.” Interpretation? Mutharika lied again.
Kachaje and Mutharika are patently not singing from the same hymnbook and only one of them can hold the truth. The journalist in Gregory just brought up that fact. Mutharika is a lawyer. And a politician. And politicians are not necessarily noted for their preference for truth. Kachaje, on the other hand, is an economist. Not just a riff-raff economist picked off the street; he is the boss of them all, including those boys and girls Mutharika relies on for advice on the economy.
And when he barks on the economy, people sit up and listen. Kachaje is an authority on the economy. Hence, when Kachaje says that what Mutharika said on the economy is more suited to a John Grisham novel than reality, you need to put those facts into perspective. And that perspective is that Mutharika lied on the economy. Kachaje didn’t have to say the words out loud.
What Mutharika said can only wear a veneer of truth if Kachaje took it on the chin and confessed that his presentation was an uninspired attempt at economic fiction; that the economy would probably rebound to higher levels averaging 7 percent irrespective of the worst floods we have experienced in recent history or a downturn in agricultural output by 30 percent; that interest rates would decline, as Mutharika hopes, even if inflation is unlikely to drop significantly.
Only on that score would we say what Mutharika said was the truth and Kachaje lied. Otherwise, Mutharika lied on the economy.