Blantyre, Malawi, Oct. 5 (Raphael Tenthani/News Time Africa) _ Malawi President Joyce Banda, under fire for her penchant for travel, has justified her jet-set life, saying she has to travel to woe back donors and attract investors. “If I just sit in State House like chicken tending its eggs no one would come to assist us,” she said at a public rally in the northern district of Mzimba where there is a parliamentary by-election scheduled for next Tuesday.
Banda, who ascended to power in April following the sudden death from cardiac arrest of President Bingu wa Mutharika, has come under attack for her frequent trips outside the country. Since April she has visited Great Britain and the US twice. She has been to Nigeria and South Africa and is scheduled to visit the European Union in Brussels, Belgium, soon.
Her critics say her frequent foreign trips drain the already depleted public coffers. But Banda, Africa’s second female president after Liberia’s Ellen Johnston Sirleaf, defended herself, saying she inherited a government that was in bad books with most Western capitals. Many Western bi-lateral and multi-lateral donor countries and agencies either reduced or completely suspended aid to Malawi in the wake of the worsening political and economic situation in the twilight of the Mutharika regime. “I found a mess in government for all donors were shunning us,” she said. “Donors need to be visited to be convinced to help us.”
The 62-year-old former entrepreneur also defended her government decision to devalue the Malawi currency, the kwacha, and let it float according to market trends. The late President Mutharika – a former World Bank economist – resisted to devalue the kwacha because, according to him, that would hurt the poor for prices of goods would shoot right through the roof.
But less than a month after assuming office the Banda administration announced a 49 per cent of kwacha and allowed it to float. This resulted in a run on commodity prices. But President Banda defended the decision, saying her predecessor’s resistance to devalue the kwacha did not help the economy. “We had no choice but to devalue,” she said. “Now the donors are back.”(rt)
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