Our leader of the opposition, Lazarus Chakwera has recently called the government policy “genocide”. This is clearly an exaggeration, maybe meant to secure more media coverage. The only alternative he came up with was doing things “like in the days of Kamuzu Banda”. That is a very meager proposal from the most eminent opposition politician. It is not precise or specific, and it is not practical.
In today’s structurally adjusted world, the ways of old are not applicable. Kamuzu Banda’s economic policies only worked because of generous support from the outside world, namely western powers gave financial support for Kamuzu’s political support in the Cold War. Towards the end of his reign this worked less and less, as evidenced by lowering standards of living. The guided economies in the world went downhill in the 1980s, while Thatcher and Reagan (and their cronies at the Bretton Woods institutions) applied their “free market will solve every problem, one-size-fits-all” policies to their own countries and the rest of the world. No matter how bad Thatcherism was and is, there is no way back to the days of Kamuzu. These days we need to do differently. (And we don’t want meat-for-the-crocodiles talk anyway!).
If Kamuzu-ism is not going to work for our country, what does MCP-Chakwera have to offer? Hard to say.
And what does motherland-fatherland have to offer? Well, I can contribute my two cents, and I do appreciate each contribution from the many valued readers.
Our country is not functioning like it did, and like it should or like the wonderful population deserves. We deserve value for our tax money, we deserve development out of the status of poorest country in the world and we deserve to be higher on the human development index that 181 out of 189 countries measured.
How do I propose to achieve that?
- Civil service reform needs to take meaningful form, not scrapping JCE, but firing those at irrelevant positions, and reorganizing the civil service so the long lines are a thing of the past, and policy is fully implemented. This means that careers should not go direction Capital if one is to advance. Quite the opposite: Capital Hill should be the last step and once there promotion should be slow if any. Promotions should be earned while working in the field, implementing the many great policies that Malawi has. We need more higher paid and influential jobs in the districts, more doctors in the hospitals instead of the ministry, and more promotion opportunities in implementation than in policy development. That way we get the ambitious civil servants to implement policy, and we get rid of the implementation gap that leaves government paralyzed.
- True fight against corruption: in his first few years Bingu wa Mutharika fought a meaningful battle against corruption, and it did work. Economic growth, optimism and better livelihoods for the population. In his later years this reversed and we saw the biggest riots in democratic Malawi as a consequence. We need to revive the zero-tolerance policy, and take it further than Bingu ever did. For a government that wants to survive as well as develop the country, the fight against corruption is of paramount importance.
- A very simple and zero-budget improvement can be to transfer a dozen or so cars, with drivers and fuel allowances, from the presidential convoy to the ACB and FIU, so they can move around when dong investigations. This will also send a clear message to the corrupt criminals that their practices will be prosecuted. Next we need a change in the labour laws (for government, private sector and NGO sector): corruption, no matter how small, must be made an immediate ground for dismissal. This will not only deter would be offenders, it will also clean the organizations of corrupt individuals.
- Economic diversification: tobacco alone is not feasible in the long term, and probably even in the short term if we look at the tobacco prices of the current season. We need more different products. The role of government here needs to be to provide expertise by reviving the agricultural extension workers system, combined with lots of radio programs containing information and support for the extension workers. With good extension work, the yields can be brought up a lot, as evidenced by the private extension work tobacco companies are carrying out under the Integrated Production System (contract farming). They are obviously targeting tobacco, there is no reason why a good government extension system could not do the same for other crops. At the same time government should provide access to markets through a similar system as the tobacco auction, but then for other crops. Another economic opportunity is tourism. Here government should make sure tourists feel welcome by making visas easy to obtain (on arrival) and by making sure the infrastructure is good.
- Improvement of the investment climate: we need to restructure the whole regulatory system for the private sector. At the moment it is an unclear jungle of regulations, some of them irrelevant, some of the redundant and outdated, some of them strongly needed. Because it is such an impenetrable mess, the regulatory system is not implemented fully and consistently. If we clean it up, and remove everything we do not need, we can strictly implement the needed regulations, and improve the investment climate as well as introducing a level playing field for everyone (and decrease opportunities for the corrupt!)
- Restructure the judiciary, improve service delivery and strictly adhere to jurisprudence, creating a level playing field and decrease corruption. This will improve the investment climate.
- Also speedy delivery of justice will decrease pressure on the penitentiary system by freeing many of those on remand or whoa re there because of misunderstandings. Those in the judiciary who deliver speedy and high quality verdicts should be promoted, those who are mediocre should be warned and those who are below standard must be demoted and in the last instance fired.
All this together will put Malawi on the road to development, failure to implement common sense policies set out in this article will keep us creeping backwards towards further poverty and despair.