I’m different from Bingu, says Peter Mutharika: Promises to jump-start Malawi economy

Malawi’s former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) acting president Peter Mutharika has challenged Malawi President Joyce Banda’s government to take the responsibility of reviving the ailing economy and stop blaming DPP regime.

Mutharika, speaking on popular interview programme Tiuzeni Zoona on Zodiak Broadcasting Service, on Sunday said it was a surprise that the country is facing economic crisis when there have been donor inflows.

“Prices of goods have sky rocketed. Malawians are facing hardships,” said Mutharika.

He pointed out that Malawi is going through economic hardships following the souring prices of basic needs including fuel which has recently been hiked to K703 for a litre of petrol mainly due to the current devaluation and floatation of the local currency, the Kwacha against the US Dollar.

Peter Mutharika: DPP presidential hopeful
Peter Mutharika: DPP presidential hopeful

Mutharika said his party would change the exchange rate, saying the floatation of the Kwacha is affecting the economy.

Mutharika, who challenged that he is optimistic that a DPP led government would change Malawi to a better nation, expects the current administration to face reality and take charge in solving the problems the country is going through.

“This government is clueless. They must go back to the drawing board. Malawians are noticing these things and they have hope in DPP because they know how we improved the economy,” he said.

Mutharika said the DPP are strategizing to take more aggressive action to jump-start Malawi’s economy and get it back to its lost glory where it was second fastest growing after Qatar.

“I have assembled a team of seven economists working on how to put the economy back on track. We will unveil the document at our convention,” said Mutharika.

Finance Minister Ken Lipenga, who also served the  DPP regime on same position, told Parliament on Friday  that Malawi’s economy remains fragile “due to the failure to make the tough economic decisions in the past.”

Lipenga remains confident that his fiscal plan under the People’s Party reign is working.

“We are still grappling with these challenges and implementing austerity measures to stabilize the economy. We now anticipate that the annual growth rate in 2012 is 1.9 percent instead of the initial projection of 4.3 percent. Our import cover, though improving, remains precarious; and the general price level continues to trend upwards. It is, however, pleasing to note that there is confidence and optimism in the private sector, the engine for economic growth. We expect growth to rebound to around 5 percent in 2013,” he said.

Since President Banda assumed power following the death of Bingu Wa Mutharika last year, a series of austerity programmes have been introduced to improve the country’s economy which was in dire straits after Mutharika had alienated international donors with his hardline policies.

Bingu not dictator

Late president Mutharika was described by his critics as intolerant and dictatorial.

Asked by radio host Pilirani Phiri to comment on that, his brother vehemently rejected the charge, saying he was not a despot but rather a  perfectionist and  a disciplinarian.

The issue of dictatorship in Malawi means more than just a system of government. It symbolises the wounds and suffering that Malawians went through during one of the darkest periods of the country.

Asked if he is any different from his late brother, Mutharika responded: “People are not the same. You are not the same as your son or sister. I am Peter Mutharika and he was Bingu wa Mutharika.”

Failure as minister

He was also quizzed on the issue of academics who were largely at odd  with DPP government which led to an eight-month lecturer protest  at the time he was Minister of Education.

Late Mutharika dismissed academic freedom demands by the University of Malawi lecturers and defended police questioning of the dons.

“It was not my responsibility. I am the one who advised the president, late Bingu to reinstate the four lecturers [who were fired],” he said.

Mutharika explained that University of Malawi is under the University Council and that the council reports to the Chancellor who is the President, saying University  is not under the Ministry of Education

“The truth of the matter is university is not under ministry of education. There were strikes during Kamuzu time, there were  strikes during [Bakili] Muluzi time. There are strikes now [under Joyce Banda]. Is it Peter Mutharika at fault?”

Mutharika to marry

During the interview Mutharika was asked to comment on speculations that he has found a lady that he is planning to marry very soon.

He could not pre-empt the wedding announcement but hinted that he has finally found love in a Malawian woman that he plans to wed.

“Once preparations are done, I am going to disclose the full information,” he said, promising to unveil his sweetheart in public once the preparations are complete.

Mutharika is a widower who has three grown up children, two girls and a boy – all are lawyers based in United States.

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