Last week, Reserve Bank of Malawi Governor Chuka took an interesting position: he blamed the “politicians” for the economic problems that are dogging Malawi. Now the bank is under control of elected politicians who are supposed to represent the people of Malawi, and who are supposed to control the technocrats. So theoretically there should not be a problem. Of course the problem is that the politicians are not serious about representing us, they are representing their own short term interests, rather than the interests of the population. Chuka seemed to suggest that it would be better if politicians had no control over the bank, but that it should be run by technocrats. An employee criticizing his superiors this way is an interesting breach of the chain of command, that may get him in trouble. Or is it that he already has another career on the line? We will find out.
But there is a bigger issue with his position: he asserts that running the Reserve Bank is a technical, non-political issue. And that is definitely not true. He even praises his colleagues for having “the same education as the IMF economists”. This goes very far: remember that it was the Bretton Woods (= World Bank and IMF) economists that shoved African countries the hated Structural Adjustment Programs down the throat, to the detriment of our quality of life. These organizations are highly politically charged. They are financed mostly by the USA and represent the interests of the USA. Which is neo-liberal capitalism. That is good for the rich (the rich in USA and the rich in Africa) and bad for the poor (the poor in USA and the poor in Africa.) They push us to privatize public utilities like electricity and water. They push us to lower state expenditures. Of course there is (according to minister Goodall Gondwe of finance) 30% wasteful spending, which can and should be cut. But that is not the way Structural Adjustment works out: it always turns into cutting service delivery, often of health services and education. Which are two sectors that are terribly underfunded already. So if we let technocrats with the same education as IMF economists run the government finances, we are going to end up even worse up the creek in areas of public service. Bad idea!