Twenty seven years ago, on 30th March 1989 to be specific, the Daily Times carried an article that questioned the effectiveness of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ‘cures” for Africa’s economic woes. The paper quoted a distinguished African scholar, Professor Adebayo Adedeji who was then Head of the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). “Africa should devise alternatives to the harsh International Monetary Fund (IMF) cures for the continent’s economic ills,” advised Adedeji.
In his speech, he indicated that about 30 African countries had implemented structural adjustment programmes along guidelines recommended by the IMF and World Bank since the mid-70s but none had been successful.
Another distinguished economist, Jeffrey Sachs who was thenSpecial Advisor to UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan and also named “the most important economist in the world” by New York Times, revealed a shocking piece of evidence, casting doubt on the effectiveness of foreign-developed economic prescriptions on Africa’s economic challenges. “By the start of the 21st century, Africa was poorer than during the late 1960s, when the IMF and World Bank had first arrived on the African scene”, says Jeffrey Sachs in his book; “The End of Poverty: How We Can Make It Happen in Our Life Time”.
Malawi has been a recipient of both World Bank and IMF technical and financial support for decades. In fact, the country might have a “permanently reserved sick bed” in the IMF Intensive Care Unit under the Extended Credit Facility supported program.
Based on the findings of the recent study by Oxfam on the state of inequality in Malawi, there is more evidence that Malawi is not winning the fight against poverty, growing inequality and deepening over-reliance on donor support, particularly on developmental projects.
Is there another way out of Malawi’s economic malaise and hopelessness? Should the country still bank its hope on the IMF economic prescriptions despite evidence that the country is not making significant progress towards full economic recovery? This is a million dollar question that every concerned citizen would wish to see answered sooner than later.
My first proposition is that as a country, Malawi should realize that solutions to its economic woes will not come from the East nor the West, but from internally generated solutions. External help becomes effective only when internally, there is a will and resolve. There is need for every Malawian, under the direction of its leadership, to realize that we have the capabilities, power and potential to build a resilient economy. There is need to have a national “think tank” that brings together practical ideas and solutions generated from a wide sector consultative process. This will ensure the development of home-grown economic solutions.
Secondly, there is need for extensive economic civic education so that every citizen becomes aware of the prescribed home-grown solutions and fully understands the contribution each and every citizen will need to contribute in moving the country out of abject poverty towards socioeconomic prosperity. No one should be left behind thinking they have no part to play, for we all have a role to play. Each and every citizen must strive to reduce his/her reliance on government and become an active contributor in the communities and engage into self-help projectsthat contribute to the overall national development agenda.
Probably most key is the drive for mindset change. There is need to instil self-pride and self-belief spirit in the hearts of Malawians. We have been beggars for far too long and many of our people have given up and resigned to the fate of poverty. This is probably why each time some donations are announced, there is a lot of clapping hands, believing our economic salvation is nigh. We must however realize that no single nation ever developed a resilient economy with a beggar mentality. We therefore need to invest heavily in mindset change and attitude transformation programs that will create a citizenry of high integrity, self-reliant, hard-working and patriotic.
Malawi is not short of brilliant ideas that if implemented, can take this nation from being one of the poorest to attaining a middle income economic status within a decade. What is lacking is the leadership and political will to harness that potential and use it to achieve our socioeconomic long-term development vision and goals. Malawi is not deficient in labour either, for it has a vibrant youthful population that if properly trained, skilled and inspired, it will be a great resource for building a resilient economy. Shall we please move from rhetoric to action?Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :