direction is coming, sort of…..

A few weeks ago I wrote that The DPP/Mutharika government is without direction. Now it seems to come clear on direction, but only on strategy, not on content. This is worrying, especially because the strategy does not look good. We still have no idea which direction the Mutharika administration wants to take the country. Do they want more government interference in the economy or less? Do they want to continue with the expensive fertilizer subsidy? Do they want to carry out their election promise of subsidizing iron sheets and cement? Where are they going to find the money, now that they are not successful in roping in donor funds? How are they going to deal with rapid inflation, and the kwacha loosing value against major international currencies? How are they going to deal with rising insecurity now that it is crystal clear that their street sweeping exercises have only targeted petty crime and not the violent burglaries we are sighing under (we includes the Veep and a government minister!)? No answers.

What the President is doing is: roping in critics by giving them lucrative appointments. This shows that Mutharika has no content to offer. He should be listening to justified criticism and act on it, and clearly explain why he dismisses other criticism. He should not be pushing criticism aside and try to buy off the critics. What he does not understand, or does not care about is: there will always be new critics if the policy is not good. Maybe he does not care, and he may just be looking for a temporary solution, while enjoying the benefits of the Presidency. Or he is clueless on what policy means, and what the responsibilities of a president in a democracy is.

Another try at appeasing critics: Mutharika would be feting a group of journalists at Sanjika Palace. We are all curious to know what he would have said, but the meeting is cancelled or postponed. We may not conclude this has something to do with the announcement on online media that the journalists are going to address the issue of the “access to information” bill, that has been postponed by successive governments year after year. Also they would have tabled the Table Mountain Declaration, which would have improved media freedom in the realm of criticism of the President. At the same time he is firing warning shots towards NGOs: Kaliati came with threats that remind us of the darkest days of the Presidency of Mutharika the elder, the illustrious Bingu, known for his :I will meet you in the streets!” like comments on critics. Kaliati wants NGOs to be accountable. Which was exactly the reaction of the Bingu government when NGOs were taking him to task over his autocratic tendencies and economic mismanagement. But it had taken Bingu around 6 years to sink so low. Now Arthur Peter Mutharika is coming this far in only a few months. The big question remains: WHICH DIRECTION ARE YOU TAKING THE COUNTRY YOUR EXCELLENCY?

Advertisements

Zero Aid Budget? No zero Aid Budget!

We are in a big mess, economically speaking. The kwacha is in free fall, and there is not much we can do. Limiting government expenses may have a marginally beneficial effect in the short term, but it will slow down the economy even further than is already the case. Selling off some foreign exchange reserves would help a little, short term, but it is a risky strategy: having a shortage of forex will kill the economy, as we saw under President Bingu wa Mutharika. The only real solution is getting more forex flowing into the country. That can be donor support, but that is problematic at the moment, or it can be export, which means we have to get more productive. That must be possible, but it is a long term project. In the mean time we are stuck between a rock and a stone.

Donor support has always been the lifeboat that kept the Malawian economy above drowning. But our ruling class has abused it time and again, and donors are getting weary with the theft of their tax payers hard earned money.

Look at it: they gave Dr Banda the benefit of the doubt and he was a ruthless dictator who enriched himself and his cronies at the expense of the population, and threw his political opponents for the crocodiles. That was a feasible strategy during the Cold War, when the West gave out un-earmarked funds to any government –good or bad- that supported its policy against the Soviets. When the Cold War was over with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it took both Malawi and South Africa 5 years to adjust to the new situation.

Then came Muluzi, and he got the benefit of the doubt. He abused donor funds big time. They withdrew.

Bingu wa Mutharika came in, and he got the benefit of the doubt. He abused donor funds and practiced bad governance to the point where he got the biggest demonstrations in democratic history against him. His answer was shoot-to-kill. Donors withdrew. Bingu got a heart attack.

In came Joyce Banda, and the donors gave her the benefit of the doubt. She organized Cashgate, and the donors withdrew.

All that time donors had been talking about good governance and prudent financial management, and our ruling class ignored that to their own benefit and at the cost of the Malawian population. Donors, time and again, overstepped their own rules of good governance and disbursed funds in questionable situations. Our ruling class has gotten used to this scenario. The Italian scholar Robert Calderisi has written a book about this Africa wide phenomenon: The Trouble With Africa. Our policy makers as well as our journalists would do us and themselves a favour by reading it well.

Now donors (after reading Calderisi and a number of other scholars) have gotten wiser: they have been cheated four times, and the ruling party is one that has gotten to them before, with the current President as a government minister. He is even the brother of the man who cheated the donor community to the point that the usually calm Malawian population revolted. Arthur Peter Mutharika was personally responsible for some bad policies, such as the flag change and the closure of Chancellor College. No wonder donors are reluctant to disburse funds before the public finance management system has been cleaned of opportunities for theft and corruption, and until more than a few token criminals have been taken to task. For the moment they do not have much reason to believe that their tax payer’s hard earned money will go to the poor of Malawi, and will not be tapped off on the way there by the rich that do not need any support.

In the past donors were very easy on Malawian rulers, and they have gotten a lot of theft and corruption in the bargain. They are wiser, and they are not shifting their goal posts to the advantage of the ruling class of Malawi any more. They seem to be keeping their word: clean up the mess before we disburse budget support. In the mean time they are giving us and our rulers a lot of slack by still supporting projects, NGO as well as government projects. It is not that all of the 40% support is frozen, it is only the 20% budget support that is frozen until Arthur Peter Mutharika cleans up his act. The other 20% project support is still disbursed into our economy. There is no such thing as a zero aid budget in Malawi, it is a 20% aid budget. God forbid the donors find out a Cashgate-like scandal in that area! Then our state will fail within months, the rich will leave the country with the stolen cash, and we are stuck with a failed state.

Priorities

What are the current priorities of our government?

The kwacha is in free fall, crime is soaring, the economy is shrinking, corruption is in high gear. Even the once flagship-policy of the DPP, the fertilizer subsidy, is not functioning at any level.

What does the president do? Does he stabilize the kwacha? Does he stop corruption? Does he get the fertilizer coupons and fertilizer itself distributed?

No, triple no, no, no.

He busies himself with political infighting.

http://www.nyasatimes.com/2014/11/10/muluzi-engineering-to-destroy-pp-uladi-maulidi-roped-in-scheme/

Corruption

Corruption-02-1024x349Corruption is a vice that strangles our society. It needs to be fought with all means. The problem is: because of the corruption there is no money (it is all stolen, and donor support has been frozen), so the government does not adequately fund ACB, FIU and other corruption fighters.
But it is much simpler than that, there is a way to fight corruption that actually brings in money. All we need is a simple change in the labour laws: corruption on any scale must be a ground for immediate dismissal. For the civil service, the private sector and the NGO sector. It will clean out the bad apples that taint our organisations, it will make organisations more effective, and it will be a strong deterrent for would-be offenders. And it will save the salaries of the thieves that steal the money that rightfully is yours and mine. The labour courts must be instructed to tightly hold up this new regulation.
This will strengthen our civil service, NGO sector and private sector so that our country operates more effectively, and our economy will grow, creating job opportunities (for honest people!). Our country will be a step closer to development and to being a middle income country.

Anti-corruption

corruptionDzonzi is right: it takes more than money to fight corruption. It does take political will, too. But allocating money in the face of such tight budgeting is a clear start of political will.
Dzonzi complains that only enemies of the government of the day have been prosecuted. He may be right, but the sad truth is that the only politician of status to have been jailed for corruption is Sam Mpasu, for diverting money that was meant for school books into his own pocket. In all the thirty years of democracy, only one conviction, when an estimated 30 % of government revenue goes to corruption! That is not enough.
Ideally, every case of corruption should end in a conviction, that’s the way to root out the evil. But rooting it out 100% is not possible: there is no country in the world that is 100% corrupt free. We can only fight it so far.
Dzonzi complains that enemies of the government of the day are prosecuted, but in fact, way too few cases end in convictions, and repossessing the stolen money. Let’s face it: when money is tight, and government money always is: every government wants to do a lot for the people, that’s how they win votes and stay into power. But there is always a financial constraint. So governments need as much money as they can get. In the face of that fact, repossessing the money gained through corruption is maybe even more important than jailing the criminals. Take back the money that is rightfully ours (government money is money of the people!).
Prosecuting only the enemies is the government of the day is not good. But not prosecuting anybody, and not repossessing any of the money these politicians and high-end civil servants have stolen from us is even worse. Prosecuting the enemies of the current government is a start. And a start is better than nothing.
It sounds more like Dzonzi is afraid of what might happen to himself, or his close friends any family, rather than looking for real justice. Let us support all the prosecutions of the guilty, let us support any stolen money to be repossessed, let us support stiff punishments for these bad crimes. If that means we start with the enemies of DPP, so be it. The ones that are spared now can face the consequences of their misdeeds with the coming change of government.
The example set by prosecuting strictly will also have a preventive effect: the would-be criminals will see that their predecessors are being jailed, and they will know they will not walk free ones the government changes.
Any prosecution of the guilty is better than none.

MUTHARIKA’S COMPLAINTS AT UN REGRETTABLE

images

At the general session of the UN, Mutharika complained about the behavior of donors. Basically, he blamed donors for the derailment of development. This is an interesting revelation: Mutharika does not take up the responsibility for the running of Malawi himself, instead he blames others for the mess we are in. And in a mess we are: out of control inflation, out of control crime, out of control budget deficit, out of control corruption. Mutharika should be a man, take responsibility, and announce the policies that are being implemented to right the wrongs. But he does not do that.
Blaming the other is a popular phenomenon among incompetent rulers. We have seen it a lot in Malawi: the last government is always blamed for problems. In the case of Mutharika he cannot do that: only two years ago he was a minister himself, and his DPP was in power. Many of the problems we are facing now were created by his own party. Remember: as minister of constitutional affairs he changed the flag, as a minister of education he caused (or did not control) the closure of Chancellor College for 8 months, as a minister of foreign affairs he failed to do anything about the international isolation the DPP had placed Malawi in: trouble with Zambia, trouble with Mozambique, trouble with Great Britain, trouble with USA, EU and other big donors. He achieved nothing. So blaming the previous government would not work for him. Solution: blame the donors! Who is responsible for running this country mister Peter Arthur Mutharika? Is that the elected president Mr Peter Arthur Mutharika, or is it the donors after all??

Fundraising for who?

urlThe Musicians Union of Malawi is broke. So they organize fundraising shows. All fine and well. Let’s hope they do a better job than at the show described here: http://gondwe-gregory.blogspot.com/…/tired-of-writing-about…
But do we all realize that the MAM/MUM is not there in the interest of music lovers? Time after time MAM/MUM tries to stop performances of international artists in Malawi. The MUM, at least MUM chairperson Reverend Chimwemwe Mhango, appears to think that we are not to decide ourselves which shows to attend. Recently he proposed that the MUM was to “censor” internatiChimwemweonal artists. In a democracy, Mr Mhango, there is no place for censorship. In the same article, Lucius Banda described this idea as unworkable. Lucius Banda is a musician of stature, of quality. And he is a promoter who brings in international artists for us to enjoy. Lucius Banda is not afraid of a little competition. He is confident his music is good enough compared to the international music he brings in. Mhango appears to see it differently: he seems to be afraid that we will prefer the music of international artists
Why should we, as music lovers, not be allowed to decide for ourselves which shows to attend and which tickets to buy? Why should not promotors like Lucius Banda decide on which artists to risk their money?
Should we as music lovers buy tickets to support an organization that fights our interest to hear both local
and international music?

DPP diversion tactics

Untitled-2The DPP is at it again: we have a country in crisis: run-away inflation, rapidly rising crime rates, an imploding economy, due to the lack of donor funding, unchecked corruption, tribalism, nepotism at government level. Any sensible government will be addressing these issues. But not the DPP!
Remember when we had the biggest crisis in Malawian democracy? We had no fuel, no forex, no drugs, no sugar, no Chancellor College. The Bingu/DPP government was debating an anti-fart bill! Can you think of less efficient government than that? I cannot. It took Bingu 6 years in office to get to this level of lunacy. He started with limiting corruption, improving the economy and food security, and getting debt relief. Only years later did he mess up so badly.
But now: Arthur Peter Mutharika is not even 6 months in office, and he is debating federalism.
Now federalism can make sense for huge countries like Nigeria, South Africa or the USA. But a small country like Malawi stands not to win anything from it. We have problems with tribalism, but these cannot be resolved with federalism or even secession. No matter how small your country, there are always minorities. Look at your own neighbourhood: there are people from different tribes there. People marry between tribes, people move to economic opportunities or for other reasons. There is no way to create a one tribe state. It does not resolve anything it only makes the countries too small to have any international leverage. And secession of the north: it is only a few disgruntled politicians who fell out of favour recently, who are trying to get local influence now they cannot have national influence. Before elections these people did not raise the issue. Politicians who are so selfish about this issue, would they be less selfish when it comes to state coffers? I am not 100% sure!
If you want to check regionalism/tribalism, you need to spread power: limit the personal powers of the President, like is written in the DPP manifesto. More power to different factions of Parliament, who represent their constituencies. Don’t let the (Lhomwe) President appoint all these important officials (boss of MBC, boss of Police, boss of ACB, boss of FIU, chancellor of UNIMA, and many more the list goes on and on). But after elections, DPP forgot this election promise, so Arthur Peter Mutharika remains overly powerful himself!
As for the government: they have no solutions to the real problems: they are trying to fight organized crime with a sweeping operation on the streets. You will catch some petty criminals that way, but it does not fight organized crime. For fighting organized crime you need to empower the ACB (has no director and the increase in funding was no more than inflation!), FIU (increase in funding was no more than inflation) and police (increase in funding was no more than inflation). Buying them some cars does not help: they don’t even have funding for fuel and maintenance of their current car fleet.
It looks like the government does not have solutions for the real issues, and is not willing to get to the bottom of Cashgate (for which reason? we can guess) and is trying to divert our attention from their failure with a “federalism” debate. Can w expect any better from a president who, as a minister, got no further than closing Chancellor College and changing the flag?

WE the people

malawi_protests-loWe the people need to look at our position. Why are we being oppressed in this way? Why don’t we have liberation in our country? We have a self serving ruling class with a culture of impunity. Where is the Baker Tilly report? Where are the findings? Why aren’t the criminals brought to justice? One would be tempted to suspect that the people responsible for upholding justice are the people who need to be brought to justice!
Whether it’s JB or APM or his Excellency, the State president, Ngwazi, professor, doctor, flag changer, Bingu wa Mutharika, or Kamuzu, all of them are corrupt self serving parasites who consume the fruits of the sweat of the population. We have nominal democracy, but what choice do we have? One party steals a bit slower (Bingu’s first rule, Muluzi’s first rule) another steals a bit faster (Joyce Banda) but none of them represents the interest of the population.
We need to look beyond our borders. Look at South America. Adeveloping continent. But they have always had leaders representing the interests of the poor (as well as leaders representing the interests of the rich!). Simon Bolivar, Juan Peron, Che Guevara. And in the 21st century: Hogu Chavez, Lulla da Silva, Evo Morales. Why don’t we have leaders that represent the people. Hugo Chavez was fram the poorest, most discriminated part of society. He was a native American. But he made it to be president. Why do we only have presidents from the ruling class? Why do they have to be? Why don’t we have true representatives from the people? We need to stand up, and fight for our rights, just like the great Bob Marley wrote: get up, stand up, stand up for your right! Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight! It is no use asking the ruling class to share the wealth of the nation. They have shown that they are not ding that voluntarily. Nothing new. No privileged class gives up their privileges voluntarily. Asking is not the way. We have to push. We have to revolt. We stood up at 20 July 2011, and it took us less than a year to get rid of the dictator Bingu wa Mutharika. WE need to be vigilant, we need to be militant. If we ask, nothing is going to change. We need to demand, and we need to push. The power of the people is key. We need to understand that respect for the ruling class does not get us anywhere. They fight amongst each other for the contents of the state coffers, that rightfully is ours. Where is the Baker Tilly report? Secret! Where are the findings of the ACB? Secret. What are the findings of the FIU? Secret! All of that tells us who is ruling this country: the people who keep the truth secret! What reason do they have? Your guess is as good as mine!

tobacco

Malawi cash cropThe tobacco tenants in Malawi are being exploited. No matter how often we have heard this before, it is important to keep stressing it. We need to clean up our national forex earner and take care of our citizens, also the poor ones.
The tobacco tenants bill of 2012 is not enacted by Parliament because the same powerful people in Parliament who are to vote on it are among the ones committing the crimes against their tenants. And reaping obscene profits from the sweat of others. Apart from the question why such unethical individuals should be in Parliament, this is a system that defeats democracy. The Parliamentary seats are not open to any citizen of Malawi, somehow the system has been corrupted and only the rich inner circle have access to the democracy. That is not democracy, it is dictatorship of the few, and clearly here we have an area where it is at the expense of the many.
The Nation of today calls for new laws. But we all know it takes years to enact a new law. The tenants bill has been in Parliament for two years and nothing is being done. We need not start all over, we need to enact that bill sooner than later. Today I propose. But until the unwilling obxtruction of a few extortionists in Parliament has been overcome: Malawi does have some laws that, outdated and insufficient as they are, were designed to protect the worker against exploitation by the rich and powerful. These laws are not enforced! Given the political will, we can start enforcing today.
But the newspaper that calls for new laws can also play an important role: a series of articles about the working consitions in our national forex earner, the tobacco industry. Opening a newspaper with a big photo of the working conditions and living conditions of child labourers, with headlines like: President leanes children in the lurch! Or: government lax on its own laws! Or: where are our MPs? Lots of photos, lots of testimonies. And of course the journalist can take the victims to the police victim support unit and ask for clarification on their laxity. And maybe take a (large) number to the ministry to demand action? That is also where the CSOs come in. It is easy to sit in an airconditioned office and write a report. But it is much better to go into the field and bring the police and labour inspectors over to the real world, to enforce the laws that are there. Photograph the whole action, report every violation and bring it to the minister until action follows action.
I propose that the police switch today from traffic fines as an income generating activity, to labour laws as an income generating activity. Visit those farms, every day, and fine those extortionists, those rich criminals who are taking advantage of the lawlessness, install sanity in our national industry of tobacco. Catch the criminals who are abusing our population. The president can order the ministers of labour and justice to start today! Liberate the child labourers from exploitation and give them a chance to go to school, a chance to make something of their lives. Check religiously on the minor points of the laour law, check for violations of safety measures, of minimum wages, of working hours and overtime pay. Check for physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, and show no mercy for the criminals who take advantage of our population. This is a national issue, not some little thing, this is the wellbeing of our population, this is our international standing and it is an issue which could (if properly enacted) secure Arthur Peter a second term the way subsidized fertilizer did for Bingu. A big social issue is a great asset for the political career of a politician as well as an important improvement of the situation in our country. Hail the tobacco farmer and hail the politicians, police men, labour inspectors and others who will enforce our labour laws!