As the hip hop group Public Enemy told us even in the 1980s we need to “fight the powers that be” from time to time. And the time is now. Again Escom is raising its prices against a background of the highest electricity tariffs in the region. Kapito of the Consumers Association of Malawi calls it stupid, and says “It seems that Mera is colluding with Escom to rip of poor Malawians instead of focusing on protecting the interest of consumers by ensuring that Escom improves its services first before calling for tariff increase.”
Note that Kapito does not raise the question of tariff increase per se. He seems to agree with that. What is happening at Escom is neo-liberalism, but that is not questioned by Kapito. He seems to not understand the ideological underpinnings of the tariff increase. What is happening is the commoditization of basic necessities: these are not viewed as something every Malawian should have regardless of income status. They are seen as merchandize that can bring profits to the private sector. So the tariffs are not based on what a Malawian can afford, but they are based on the maximum profit that the capitalist can make. This is a condition for the grants from the neo-liberal Millenium Development Corporation from the US. In the neo-liberal (capitalist) logic government should be made ultra small and everything should be priced according to free market (capitalist) logic. This way life becomes better for the rich and worse for the poor. But in neo-liberal thinking, government has no obligation to the population, other than paving the way for unlimited capitalism. By accepting the grants from the US Millenium Development Corporation, the Malawian government has surrendered its population to the free market thinking that the US are consistently trying to impose on the whole world, for the profits of US companies.
We see here how a Malawian government does not appear to consider the ideological background of a grant, it simply accepts without having a long term strategy. If our political system would facilitate ideological thinking we would not have accepted these conditions anyhow. We should have a healthy debate on the long term consequences of this type of decision. And that is where the system is falling short: our politicians have no ideological background or thinking, so they do not analyse the underlying objectives of donors, in this case pulling Malawians into the international capitalist free market system that favours the rich and powerful (like the US and its citizens) and victimizes the poor and dis-empowered: the large majority of the Malawian population.
We have a huge need for ideology.