One Size Fits All – World Bank

At the opening of the ICAM (Institute of Chartered Accountants) conference, World Bank Country Rep L Kullenberg predictably called for the government to reduce spending. The World Bank always advises ever government to reduce spending. That is their standard solution to every problem. They are neo-liberal, right wing capitalist puppets of the USA (who mostly funds the World Bank). The USA dictate the one-size-fits-all approach that was so clearly exposed by Joseph Stieglitz. The USA forget that their own government overspends, and that their agriculture is much stronger subsidized than any FISP ever could.

This is the same recipe that the World Bank has cooked up for every state since the 1980s. Structural Adjustment is their magic word, and the fact that this has failed so miserably (read Joseph Stieglitz again!) is only reason for the World Bank to advise more of the same disaster.

As a country we need to decide. In a democracy, the population is supposed to have the decisive say, through elections. Ideally, a democracy functions this way: a number of candidates clearly state in which way they think the country should go. Likeminded candidates join in parties, and the population has a clear choice: party one wants to dance to the tune of the World Bank, Party two wants to go in a socialist way, party three wants to keep everything more or less the same (conservatism, for this read Edmund Burke).

This is the case in the UK, where the main parties are liberal (small government), labour (government support for the poor) and conservative (keep things more or less the same, or reverse policies from previous labour governments). This is a clear choice and the electorate can decide. IN Malawi we don’t get this though. What we get is a lot of personality talk. But no one party comes out clear with alternatives for the government policy. You could think that UDF is a liberal party ( in principle) but about a year before the elections Muluzi Jr comes with a plan of government driven growth in a big construction project. Not liberal at all. Joyce Banda had come out with a plan for private sector lead growth, which is liberal, but her government did not implement anything in that direction. DPP promised subsidized iron sheets and more FISP, but they are not implementing that at all, just talk. And last year the FISP was such a mess that the impact was greatly reduced, mostly through incompetence and corruption.

This way we can never effectuate our democratic rights. We need clarity from our politicians, and clear ideas of their ideologies. Now government is not making any choices, which means we muddle along in the direction of a BIG disaster. With no donor support the government is too cash strapped to do much of anything, even meeting fixed cost is growing over their heads, and they are over borrowing, thus crowding out the private sector. What is being done about it? Even the FISP borrowed this year’s money last year, and used it up, so there is a gaping hole in the funding there. The responsible minister Chiyembekeza does not get any better than: Government has a plan, trust me. We will publish the plan some time soon. But he cannot say what is in the plan. Which could mean anything.

We, as electorate deserve better, but we are not insisting enough on better. If we vote for clear policies only, the politicians will have to follow. But so far we are voting as blind sheep. If we demonstrate for clear policies, like we did on 20 June 2011, the politicians will follow. They know they need votes, and if we are persistently demanding clear policies they will come through. If we keep on acting like everything is cool, the politicians will assume everything is cool and they will continue business-as-usual, which means Malawi remains the poorest country in the world, and we remain the poorest people in the world. Depressing thought.

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