first the term liberal needs some explanation: it is both applied to economic issues, and to ethical issues. In both cases it means liberty from state intervention. In economic issues this means that the poor are left to their own devices, and need to find a way to survive without state support. This is right wing. In ethical issues it means that the citizen can decide for him/herself how to deal with issues that do not harm anybody else, like abortion or homosexuality. Liberal in general means deregulation where possible. Worldwide, the business community tends to support the liberal view as it gives businesses maximum liberty to make profits. Socialists argue that in case of no regulation these profits are made at the cost of the workers, who have less power than the business owners. Workers can try to compensate this by forming trade unions, which often have a socialists or left wing tendency in their thinking.
Conservative means to conserve what is there: not changing things much, or changing only very slowly, as change brings upheaval which is deemed not good for society. Conservative in ethical issues means not changing the laws governing homosexuality and abortion, conservative in economic terms means keeping the system that we have now. That seems unlikely, because Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a very badly performing economy. Still the government seems to talk progressive (development) but act conservatively. The honorable minister of agriculture for instance stated Malawi will keep on relying on tobacco as main export even in the face of diminishing world demand and diminishing returns.
Karl Marx, founder of socialism
Socialist is usually applied to economic issues, as the founder, the German Karl Marx, was a socio economic philosopher. Socialists argue that capitalism is good only for the happy few, while the masses are increasingly poor and disenfranchised. This analysis aligns with the real situation in Malawi. Socialists argue that the state has a responsibility to take care of the citizens, and provide for all. Everyone in the country should have opportunities, no matter the socio economic status of their parents. This means state subsidized health care and education. We have these in Malawi but the quality is increasingly threatened by corruption, incompetence and budget cuts. It also means that a minimum for life support should be provided by the state, maybe in the form of food supplies for victims of natural disasters like the floods in Southern Malawi. The victims here are threatened with hunger. The Malawian state is not providing, so the international community has to take over, to the shame of our politicians. We can see how right wing politicians are reluctant to take on this type of responsibility: right wing George W Bush (then US president) was very slow and reluctant to respond to the disaster when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. He felt the private sector should provide.
In Kamuzu Central Hospital, cold rooms were not maintained, resulting in rotten bodies.
Now many politicians world wide talk one way and act the other, and Malawi is no exception. Our politicians talk socially, but let the patients in hospitals rot away (in KCH literally, a few years ago) and do not provide the means or staff to provide even minimum care. The current government had to be pressured by the medical community to hire the recently graduated medical staff, that is so sorely needed in our health care system. The government does not provide even basic essential drugs to the hospitals. So on one hand there appears to be wide popular support for state funded health care, on the other hand our politicians are not providing the means to do so. Partly this is corruption, partly it is incompetence, partly it is lack of political will to take the necessary decisions.
In education we see the same: there appears to be wide support for state funded education, but the politicians of the day do not keep our education system in reasonable (I don’t even ask for good) condition. Far too few teachers (and the government refuses to hire recently graduated teachers, or to use the Unicef donated Teacher Training College in Phalombe), far too few learning materials, far too few and too dilapidated buildings, no training for teachers in the new curriculum, no equipment to implement the new curriculum. Again the politicians promise a social policy, but do not deliver. It has been argued by several thinkers (among them Benedicto Kondowe and the late Raphael Thentani) that a well educated population will challenge the type of leadership we have now. When the masses are well educated they can much easier see through the corruption, incompetence and general lack of political direction. This is not in the interest of the ruling class, so they do not give education the treatment it deserves, and that way deprive the country of the development it so badly needs.
On the economic side of things: government has privatized a lot of businesses under Muluzi in the 1990s. A liberal move. But now: Para Statals are not kept in good condition as the perennial black outs and water shortages testify. ON the one hand government partly privatizes the electricity company ESCOM, under pressure from the US Millenium Development Corporation, on the other hand they start building a state owned sugar factory in Salima. There is no direction here, because of a lack of ideological awareness of our politicians.