Yesterday the Nation newspaper carried two related articles that make us weep for our motherland, Malawi.
One was about a report that shows that worldwide corruption kills about 6.6 million people each year. In Malawi we can clearly see how this would work: drugs are diverted, procurement is corrupted, etc, and we have no adequate medical care.
The other article is about investment competitiveness: Malawi ranks 132 out of 144. At the bottom of the pile. That’s why we get so little Direct Foreign Investment: our beautiful country is not attractive. The biggest reasons are corruption (again!) and access to finance. The second one is partly caused by the first one: government is so inefficient due to (among other reasons) corruption, that it needs more and more money than necessary to keep functioning, even at the low level that it is functioning. It is so inefficient because of corruption, which steals away the money. That means government has to borrow extra, thus crowding out the private sector in the finance market and driving up interest rates.
Instead of Mutharika ordering ministry departments to identify areas for investment, it is clear that being 132 out of 144 is not going to do it, no matter how many areas for investment are identified. We need to tackle the root cause: Malawi is not attractive to investors because of corruption and lack of finance.
Mutharika needs to attack corruption; that is the big number one crime in Malawi. It eats up an estimated 30% (!) of government revenue, and corrupts project design and eats up profitability of the private sector. Rooting out corruption is not possible, no country in the world is 100% corrupt-free. But a lot more can be done to fight corruption. Bingu, AP Mutharikas brother did something: a zero tolerance policy that did quite a bit of good during his first term (in his second term he messed everything up again!). Mutharika has doubled the Anti Corruption Bureau. Doubling the ACB is a little, but we need a lot more: we need to fight is with the FIU, and the police (train them!), the judiciary, and the prison system. The criminals need to be brought to justice quickly and efficiently and severely punished. This will also bring back donor support which will diminish government need for borrowing, and this way increase access to finance. It will also curb corruption so government needs to borrow still less; again access to finance is improved.
Other ways of tackling corruption need to be walked too: simplifying the regulatory framework, and making this known to the general public so the public can confront corrupt officials. We need signs with applicable laws, regulations and procedures explained at every government office, every roadblock, every police station, even in every cell a sign needs to explain the rights and duties of the arresting police and prison warders, as well as the rights and duties of the detained. Procedures must be clear and time limits for decisions must be set and published. There must be a strong and easy-to-follow complaint procedure that quickly assesses each claim and punishes violations of our rights.
We also need a change in the labour law: every case of corruption must be an automatic reason for immediate dismissal. In the private sector, in the NGO sector and in the government sector (labour laws were mentioned in the report as one of the reasons Malawi score so badly on competitiveness). Labour courts need to be instructed to uphold this law religiously. Any bribe offered, solicited, accepted, every kickback offered, solicited, accepted, must be punished with automatic dismissal. This will be a powerful deterrent for would be offenders and it will clean the ranks in both government and private sector of the bad apples.
That way Malawi will be on the way to development again. We will be seen as an international example of good governance, and we will prosper into a middle income, and later high income country. Better for everybody including the would-be corrupt offenders who will be deterred from their crimes.


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