Recently, Parliament has come under fire for what has been dubbed ‘extravagance’. The media is awash with the ‘revelations’ of how Parliament has gone on a shopping spree for top of the range luxurious vehicles to the extent of blowing a whooping MK300 million on just four people. Watching the news and special programs specifically produced by the state controlled MBC TV, you get the impression that someone is having a good time settling scores with the top cats at Parliament other than apprehending the suspected culprits.
In other news, the man in charge of the public purse, Goodall Gondwe has put it bluntly: “Forget about donors”. He is quoted to have advised government controlling officers and chief directors to be prudent in their management of funds because donors will not provide any funds. “Do not think that if you do certain things or you fulfil certain obligations, then donors will come back. Take it from me, they are not coming back”. Interesting – if we were trying to do the right things just for the sake of winning back donors, and not necessarily for the love of our country, then we are a sick and pathetic nation.
Nevertheless, this is the kind of truth that will set us free as a nation – we are not entitled to freebies and donors don’t owe us a living. Herewith some unsolicited advice to the learned and experienced Finance Minister: Abandon the old budget template and craft a totally new one that takes into account the hard economic realities. We have come of age as a nation and we must learn to wipe our own backside. Please Sir, do away with the current extravagant budget template and formulate a completely radical one in line with the size of our economy.
Based on the explanations from Parliament on the purchase of the vehicles, probably no law was broken. Every “controlling officer” who needed to approve the purchase of the luxurious vehicles, duly approved and treasury funded the extravagance. After all, it has been the tradition that office bearers at that level are entitled to such luxury. Parliament was permitted to be extravagant because that is what was put in the national budget – extravagance. This is where we need some radical reforms. We need a budget that reflects the size of our economy and not one based on our appetite for luxurious living.
With the skewed media reporting, one would think every other government department except Parliament, is clean. But wait a minute. Count the number of luxurious cars on the convoy of the Head of State.
Look at the expensive celebrity Hummers that surround MG2. Think of the two or three official vehicles per cabinet minister. Go to any parastatal and see the luxurious vehicles parked for the Chief Executives, Financial Controllers, Heads of Departments, and you will not believe this is the same country that is going around the world with a begging bow, seeking food handouts.
The extravagant culture has not spared individuals and families. Take a drive around Areas 47, 9, 10, 12, 43 and be shocked to see 4, 5 even 6 bedroomed mansions, housing families of four. Many of them have up to 5 toilets to serve 4 family members. I have always wondered; what is the probability that each family member would need to use the toilet at the same time? But hey, we need to show off to our neighbours – it is our way of life. As the saying goes, monkey see, monkey do. We are simply walking in the footsteps of our leaders.
Malawi is a bicycle economy but sadly, whose leaders and their elite friends have huge limousine appetites. We ride in a convoy of VXs, Prados, Mecs just to go and officially open a borehole, some donated school block or some 13km road.
For our ailing economy, a Toyota Fortuner would do for most senior public servants, although I would recommend a second hand Nissan X-Trail. I drive a Nissan Note, not my preferred choice, but the size of my ‘personal economy’ tells me that is what I can afford to drive at the moment. Most hard working tax-payers drive second hand vehicles, why should those using the meagre taxes collected blow them on luxurious brand new VXs?