Idriss Ali Nassah on Malawi’s ailing economy

I once wrote about a friend of mine who did a spell as a young doctor in the main hospital in Mansour, in 2005, at the height of the Iraqi insurgency against the American invasion.


When he came to visit in 2007, he said our hospitals were like Sunday picnics by comparison.

Down there, his customers used to come in suffering from all manner of horrific injuries caused by shrapnel from a range of large and small weapons.

They had blown off limbs, bullets lodged in bodies, missing parts and hanging intestines.

But he was always amazed how many of these people were patched up and out of hospital in days and weeks.

The human body is an extraordinarily tough and resilient thing; a relatively healthy one can take an inordinate amount of punishment and for so long as the vital organs remain intact, it can survive.

Just like the Malawi economy. The kwacha has taken a severe battering; there is blood on the floor, the country is riddled with poverty, there are no jobs being created, agriculture is floundering, the civil service is bloated and the government has no money to spend.

What is worse, the government of Peter Mutharika and his Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe does not seem to have a well-crafted blueprint for the future economic development of the country.

Yet, somehow, Malawi manages to hang on.

Last week, the expert surgeons of the  International Monetary Fund (IMF) intensive care unit concluded their work on us; they gave us some infusion of blood and administered electric shock therapy.

I hope our leaders, while celebrating this latest bout of treatment from the IMF, will stop with their short-term view on things. Life expectancy is very low on the African continent-Malawi is no exception-and when there is money to be grabbed, then you must grab it, spend it on useless things and then come back to grab-or beg for-some more.

Because of this short-termism, tax money that should have improved the lives of millions of Malawians since Independence in 1964 has either been fritted away on nonsense like building a 300-roomed State House or disappeared into the pockets of politicians and their connected cronies.

Sadly, there are no indications that with our current crop of leaders anything will change, which means only one thing; we are destined to return to the IMF and World Bank, begging, again.

Even the IMF must also know that Malawi will be back soon. The people they are giving the money to now are the same people who have made a cock-up of this economy; starting with Escom, road maintenance, agriculture investment, infrastructural development, education and the health system.

Forward planning for power stations has not been done for years, which is odd because common sense tells you that you will need more power stations if you plan to attract major investment and supply electricity to 16 million or so of your citizens at the same time. The public education system is turning out to be a joke and the health care system is itself so sick it needs to be hospitalised.

I was in Lilongwe in December and on the skyline now stands a glistering new stadium. After the opening ceremony party is over, the reality of what we have done will soon kick in. That stadium will lie mostly unused, yet it is very expensive to maintain.

It will look good to visitors, for sure, that Malawi has a grand stadium, but to what end? It is much like buying a huge flat screen TV to impress your neighbours when your children are going to school hungry and in torn uniform.

With that stadium-which will not generate near enough money to pay for its own maintenance-believe me; Malawi is going to be counting the cost for years.

Thank goodness for the IMF.

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6 years ago


6 years ago

Good analysis Idriss Ali Nassar.

6 years ago

Ine kudabwa kuti kodi IMF ifuna kuonjezera ndalama pa 577 billion paja palibe chomwe chingasinthe apa fisi ndi fisi ngakhale asinthe nkhalango

6 years ago

Exactly,some company is maintaining the M1 road near Chingeni in a manner that leaves A LOT to be desired. Did that section of the road requre maintenance? What about the shoulders of the road? Are engineers involved the that maintenance or construction work? What is exactly happening there??? STEALING MONEY!!!

6 years ago

Good article Idriss-I like your analysis and objectivity.

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