Last Saturday the Nation opened with an interesting article: Priority mix-up in Government.
It shows how the different government projects are not working towards the same goal, in this case the scrapping of tourism as a priority and the building of an airport in Mangochi. These are two different directions, which means that no way will we get the best return on the investments. This is a familiar situation, I have mentioned examples several times.
However the journalist covers the story as if it is a lack of capacity and/or coordination in Government. It seems increasingly unlikely that that is the cause. If these types of mishaps and bad investments from Government side keep happening, one would suppose there is some systemic issue at hand. What can this be?
The answer seems surprisingly simple: if we presume that the overall objective of these projects is not as mentioned in the proposals and other project documents, but it is that certain well connected individuals get opportunities for lucrative contracts and/or kick backs, then suddenly it all makes sense. The abysmally bad management of the sugar factory in Salima, the building of an airport not in line with Government priorities, Nsanje Inland Port, Tractorgate, failed irrigation projects, the list goes on and on. If Government officials were rewarded for good performance as measured against project objectives, then we would have a very different situation. But the opposite is happening: what is rewarded is a creative abuse of project funds for personal benefit, and political support for the Government of the Day. This explains why Malawi is a “least developed country”: this type of priority stifles effective projects, but rewards ones that do develop certain people’s personal wealth, instead of the country as stated in project objectives.