Life was poor, nasty, brutish and short.

Today we read in the Nation that the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II (MGDS II) has failed. The report cited objectively confirms what we on the ground already subjectively suspected: Malawi is not doing well. Government spending on development has been below expectation.

What is happening?

This government does not have a policy set out. They do not have a blueprint or utopia where they want the country to be in, say, 2024. What they are doing is: filling one hole with another hoping to finance the opulent lifestyle of the ruling class and maybe also pay government bills and salaries. But there is no direction where the country should be going according to government.

When trying to pay the bills, government does not set strong priorities (for instance hiring teachers, improving education, hiring doctors and nurses, operating budget for the police service). What happens is: those in strong positions on Capital Hill make sure their personal interests are covered. That means inevitable shortages (caused by corruption, inefficiencies and consequent donor fatigue) are pushed downwards to those with no power to influence payment priorities. Government suddenly lowered the allocation to education with 40% (!). The ministry did not downscale its own operations, it simply pushed the shortage downwards to the schools. The University subsequently tried to push the shortage downwards to the students (and their parents). The judiciary applied the law, and stopped the university from doing this. When petitioned the chancellor (who happens to also be President) just flatly refused to take responsibility. Now several universities are closed, and it is unclear when they will reopen. This is not conducive to development, on the contrary: in the 21st century our beautiful country cannot be competitive without a well educated work force. This is only one example, but it works like this across the government ironing board.

No priorities which leads to the powerful taking care of themselves and pushing the shortages down to the powerless. This looks suspectly like the bad dream of Hobbes: the life of man, poor, nasty, brutish and short. According to Hobbes, we need governments to stop this type of life. This classic realization from the 18th century (!)has not reached the current crop of leaders at Capital Hill.

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