The opposition has dismissed President Peter Mutharika’s State-of-the Nation-Address (Sona) in which he said he has delivered in his four-year administration, branding it as ‘wishful thinking’ while governance expert said one gets the impression that the President is out of touch with the reality on the ground.
Mutharika cited inflation figures, forex reserves and a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Credit Facility as a sign that his administration has improved the economy.
He said Malawi’s economy will grow by as much as 6 percent in 2019 from a 4 percent expansion expected in 2018.
“This month, four years ago – we were speaking of a broken economy, stagnated projects and smashed hopes. Today, we have the economy fixed, confidence regained, projects moving, and hopes rising,” said Mutharika.
Malawi, which is experiencing power rationing due to inadequate generation, aims to more than double power supply from the current 360 Megawatts (MW) to 1,000 MW by 2023, by diversifying from hydro electricity generation to coal, wind, solar and gas, Mutharika said.
However, Mutharika failed short on commenting on whether the diesel-powered gensets his administration had procured—currently under probe—had delivered or not.
Business and Finance Committee of Parliament chairperson Rhino Chiphiko,who is opposition Malawi Congress Party legislator, said Mutharika’s achievements have been limited to impressive figures, but have not improved the lives of the poor.
“I don’t agree with the assertion that he has delivered but it’s not only me but everybody can see the struggle of Malawians. It’s wish list of what can be done but something his administration has not done.
“It’s a dream about a more stable and growing economy but we don’t have one now. The President is talking about building schools and roads but we don’t see it happening, we don’t see his rhetoric aligning with projects that are also in line with the country’s development goals,” he said as quoted in the press.
People’s Party (PP) leader in the House, Ralph Mhone, said Mutharika is wrong to price himself to have delivered, saying his achievements should be contrasted with the promises he made during the campaign through the 2014 DPP manifesto.
“Malawians are poorer than in 2014 before they came to power, people are suffering,” said Mhone.
Leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera will give his official response to Sona in Parliament on Monday.
But Chakwera has been quoted by Malawi News saying Mutharika spent almost an hour in Parliament, describing an imaginary state and projecting a series of manifesto promises which, in opposition leader’d view, is not what Malawians are looking for.
“There are a lot of contradictions in the way the nation’s status as of now is being described, we are told that the economy has stabilised and we are going some place but as we speak, the Ministry of Labour has been notified that most companies now are downsizing.
“Nothing has been stated to assure the farmer out there that what happened last year will not happen again and that they will have ready markets for their produce and to empower the people to feed themselves, not telling them you will not die of hunger we will feed you,” Chakwera said.
Governance expert Makhumbo Munthali told Nyasa Times that the President’s Sona appeared more of a project’s activity report –rather than annual report or plan- that lacked clear demonstration of evidence at outcome level substantiating his claims that he was delivering on his promises.
“To say that our economy was performing better as partly exemplified by many Malawians now buying cars when in actual fact many Malawians continue to languish in abject poverty –with worsening living standards – only shows that the President is living in his own world,” Munthali said.
“While his power generation plan to ending the blackouts looked attractive, the continued shifting of the timelines (to now 2021) and the failure to openly admit that his government had goofed on the various promises it had made to Malawians on ending the blackouts including the gensets excuses makes it difficult for Malawians to take Mutharika seriously on these plans. Besides, Mutharika failed to explain clearly on what steps his government would take to reduce the blackouts in the short term pending his realisation of his vision 2021.”
Furthermore, Munthali said Mutharika missed an opportunity to explain to the public on what his government was doing in order to operationalise the Access to Information Law.
“There is public discontent of government’ continued delay to operationalise the Access to Information, and the public has been greeted from one excuse to another from either the Minister of Information or Malawi Human Rights Commission. It would have been important that this was made clear,” he said.
On the fight against corruption, Munthali said the President rightly pointed out that government is promoting integrity, accountability and transparency in various public and private institutions in the country through implementation of corruption prevention programs as well as capacity building for institutional integrity committee.
“However, the President failed to explain on what the political arm of the public service (or the executive) or leadership was doing in fighting corruption against the background of serious allegations of K4 Billion scandal implicating the Minister of Finance and Minister of Local Government for rewarding MPs who had rejected electoral reforms. In short, while the President may have called for Malawians to stop politicising corruption, his failure or delays to act on his political cronies implicated in serious corruption allegations makes it difficult for Malawians to believe that he is serious to fight the vice. Otherwise, the growing perception is that Mutharika’s regime is the most corrupt and nepotistic in recent years – perceptions that run counter to Mutharika’s cornerstones of hard work, patriotism and integrity.
However, the governance expert welcomed Mutharika’s promise that the Mining Bill will be tabled in the current sitting.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :