I read with a great deal of interest the article that was recently published by Nyasa Times online in which two leading economists( Mr Henry Kachaje and Mr Edward Chilima) proposed the abolition of political party manifestos. They claimed that if this proposal was implemented it would facilitate national development.
I must confess that I was very astonished with this proposal. To make matters worse the two economists whom I take for granted that they are well read in economics did not give any example of a country where this idea was implemented with desired positive results.
In my view such a proposal needs to be backed with empirical evidence if it is to be taken seriously.
My negative reaction to this proposal is based on:
- Almost all highly developed countries such as Western Europe, United States of America, Japan etc have used and continue to use the system of political party manifestos. They prospered economically and continue to do so.
- Political party manifestos are part of the free interplay and dissemination of ideas in a free and democratic society. The competition of ideas is one of the pillars of development as the
process of debate( that is the free flow of ideas) tends to weed out bad ideas.
Let us, for example, take the Shire-Zambezi waterway. If it is to be debated the question is: As a multimodal transport system can it reduce transport costs and if so by how much? As ideas are
exchanged something good is likely to be achieved because some bad ideas would be discarded thereby enhancing its positive contribution to the country if at all it is implemented.
It is generally well known by transport economists that a multimodal transport system is more
likely to be expensive than a single mode transport system.
In view of the foregoing rather than abolishing the political party manifestos system as suggested by the two economists the debate should rather be on strengthening the system. One way of doing this is to ensure that the proposed National Planning Commission will be truly independent and professional in the discharge of its duties.
- Ernest Mtingwi is former director general of Malawi Revenue Authority