PAY THRU THE NOSE

We are paying, and paying. The government is not willing or capable of keeping its spending in check, and it makes the ordinary citizen pay for its unwillingness to restructure. They raise fees for everything, and our spending power is reduced by the week.

This may be defensible in case of motoring: it is the better off that drive, even though it has a knock on effect on everything that is being transported: the pushed up cost of transport is passed on to the consumer, rich or poor.

But our government is, step by step, introducing a whole new way of looking at society, looking at our lives, and looking at justice and distribution of life opportunities. And all this goes step by step without ever talking of policy. Our government is introducing an anti-poor policy, a pro rich, pro themselves, and especially pro higher government employees, who keep their lavish conditions of service, no matter how high prices rise. But the ordinary Malawian is paying through the nose, and many will not be able to raise the money for the basic necessities of education and health care.

Look: government is raising prices for electricity, for water, for education, for health care. Some are called “reasonable rates” some are even called “cost-sharing”. A word that hides the true meaning of what is happening: commodification of our whole government service system. Commodification means: these things are not seen as the human rights that they are, but they are seen as opportunities for the rich to make money off the whole population. Electricity: raise the tariffs, and split Escom, and then privatise what can be privatized, so the owners can make money off every kilo watt we need to use. No matter if the population can afford it, the investor wants to see money, and the government provides the opportunity to make the money.

Water, which we need to stay alive, goes the same direction. We even are paying through the nose for the services of some Dutch company called Vitens. They were in Blantyre for a few years to fix the system and they collected heavy fees for this. We are paying off the debt incurred in the process, while Vitens delivered such an abysmal service that the water situation is worse than ever. Only the tariff has been hiked several times over, and we are paying through the nose. You see: commodification means that we do not get what we need to stay alive at a cost affordable for every citizen. No, we can buy the water at a price that guarantees a “healthy” profit for the company.

In health care, it is a bit more controversial, but we are confronted with user fees here and there. Not enough to cover the cost, but government is broke because they are not restructuring the civil service, in spite of the Chilima Committee writing a report, the President launching the policy. Then they rename a number of PS’s to Principal Director. That is not restructuring, it is renaming. So the money goes to the people with the fat labour contracts full of benefits, and the service on the ground in the hospital is underfunded. People die because of this! So when the district hospital is so underfunded it cannot deliver the expected – life saving – service, the population goes to the referral hospital. Instead of fixing the problem (making sure the district hospitals are capable of delivering meaningful services) the government introduces fees at the referral hospital, which most of the population cannot afford. The ministry of health lets them wait at the underfunded district hospital, where drugs are not available. Only those who can pay get the service they deserve at the referral hospital. Commodification of health care. Which means: money talks, those with no money can die.

Then education, a key government responsibility. Here school fees are raised, and there is even talk of referring the much loved policy of Muluzi: free primary education.

Secondary education has already been commodified: school fees have been hiked between 100 and 400%. Which means that even a lot of middle class Malawians will not be able to pay the secondary school fees for their children. Look at it from the point of view of justice: a child cannot choose if it is born of rich parents or poor. But now with the rising school fees, only the children of the rich get a chance at education. The innocent child of the poor is condemned to remain uneducated, and that means condemned to be poor, and the children’s children will also be condemned to be poor. This is injustice of the worst kind. And then I have not even mentioned the 15000% fee hike at Domasi TTC. This is a pure rip off.

And then: look at the country’s future: generally Malawians are underpaid. Only very few can afford the new “cost sharing” school fees. Which means the next generation is going to be under educated in a 21st century world where an educated population is a must for a country to survive economically. This government is practicing a scorched earth policy for the whole country: they withdraw, and leave nothing but scorched earth for the next generation.

All this is right wing politics, that is being pushed by the neo conservatives from the US, the neo liberals of the world. More and more, international politics is pushed in the direction that started in the 1980s with the hated prime minister Thatcher of the UK and the evenly hated President R Reagan of the US. These people started it, and George W Bush pushed it beyond everyone before him, which resulted in chaos in Iraq, chaos in Afghanistan, chaos in Louisiana at the response to hurricane Katrina, and chaos in the world economy after the sub-prime mortgage crisis hit the whole world economy.

Now our government is (under the guise of no-alternative crisis policy) going in the same direction. Commodification of everything means the rich make fabulous profits at the expense of the common citizen, and the middle class is being pushed into poverty. All this will create astronomical levels of inequality, poverty, and crime (as the last resort of the desperate poor).

Do we want this? The policy as a whole is never being discussed, it is just implemented step by step.

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