Kabwila says Lagarde’s visit confirms Malawi is puppet of IMF

University of Malawi academic Dr Jessie Kabwila, who led the battle over academic freedom, says the visit of the International Monitory Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde is not something that Malawians should be proud of as it just confirms that the country is now a puppet of the Bretton Wood institution.

The IMF chief visited Malawi on Friday in a show of support for the southern African nation’s decision to pursue tough economic reforms despite widespread opposition to the measures.

“It pains me whenever I hear people boasting that ‘Lagarde is coming and we will have a dinner with her’. No, IMF is not something we can be proud of. Their policies are aimed at manipulating and oppressing the poor because this is the way through which they accumulate more wealth,” said Kabwila-Kapasula.

She was speaking as panelist during ‘Contemporary Issues’ programme aired on Radio Islam monitored by Nyasa Times.

Kabwila:  IMF puppet masters

Kapasula cited IMF’s structural adjustment programme as something that brought misery and suffering to Malawians by pushing for the removal of subsidies.

“Following the removal of subsidies look at how life is for the poor. It is tough now and those who are benefitting are the investors themselves,”,she said.

Kabwila also said the devaluation of the local currency is another latest evil which IMF is using to increase the suffering of the poor.

She particularly blamed this on the governing People’s Party (PP) of President Joyce Banda  for rushing to devaluate the Malawi Kwacha without pushing measures that would cushion its impact.

“I am particularly against the economic policies of PP government because it seems that we have gotten the objectives of IMF-led people who are coming into the country. Now Malawi has become a country which is dancing to the tune of IMF. Whenever IMF asks us to jump we only ask how high we can jump, without asking why?” she said.

The  former  president of the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College Academic Staff Union has also said Malawians are free to express their feelings during January 17 demonstrations about the suffering caused by  PP’s government economic policies.

The country’s lawmakers also expressed their unhappiness with IMF’s  imposition of hard conditions on Malawiand  for pushing Malawi to devalue the kwacha by about 50 percent, saying the decision has hurt Malawians.

The MPs raised the concerns during an interface meeting Lagarde held with members of Malawi’s Budget and FinanceCommittee of Parliament on Saturday in the capital, Lilongwe.

“We tend to wonder what sort of recovery path the Malawi economy is going through because inflation is around 33.3 percent against the projected rate of 18.4 percent,” queried  Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Lilongwe Mapuyu South MP (MCP) Joseph Njovuyalema.

Meanwhile, Malawi’s renowned economic expert Professor Thandika Mkandawire wrote on popular Nyasanet internet discussion forum:  “My interpretation is that the IMF has realised that they misread the situation as simply requiring devaluation of the currency and ignored all the evidence of structural constraints on export capacity – poor infrastructure and human resources.

“It appears the IMF catalytic effect on and has not been as strong as was expected. Now, Mrs Joyce Banda is credited with having followed the IMF prescriptions fully and so the usual excuse that the policies have not been fully implemented cannot be evoked. In addition Mrs Banda enjoys considerable support of very powerful women in various organisations (the so-called “femocrats”) and they will simply not see her fail. Some of these are putting pressure on IMF and the World Bank. There will be more missions like these to Malawi. Just watch.”

Mkandawire urged Malawi government to “strategise around these prevailing conditions and perceptions.”

Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest countries, is struggling with high inflation that has made the costs of goods and services difficult to afford for many citizens.

Consumer Association of Malawi  plan to stage protests on January 17 against IMF-backed measures, which include the loosening of restrictions on foreign currency exchange.

Banda let the currency, the kwacha, float freely against major currencies after assuming power following the death in April of President Bingu wa Mutharika, who had opposed such a move on the grounds that it would trigger inflation and ultimately hurt the poor.

The unpegging of the currency from the dollar led to a devaluation of about 50 percent, and the price of commodities soared.

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