Of Malawi’s cry babies and creators

Lilongwe – On January 1, Mother Nature spawned a purse of 365 unmanufactured days into the lives of about 14 million Malawians who are currently wrestling with a heap of economic challenges that have goaded social and political discomfort into their daily wellbeing.

Malawi President Joyce Banda

Malawi President Joyce Banda

How the citizens chose to spend the priceless income of days in spinning health, pleasure, money, and content or anarchy is entirely up to them. But one thing that is certain is that regardless of the choice to positively utilize or waste the free supply of the commodity of time and days, the meter that runs the precious time-item will not stop and allow for a restart or borrow out an extra second. It will continue ticking while the nation is left behind trying to pick itself up.

Out of the economic malaise caused by arm twisting demands of the Breton Institutions that forced President Joyce Banda to implement throbbing national economic reforms last year, including the 49 per cent currency devaluation, flotation of the exchange rate regime and liberalisation of the money market that have pushed up the prices of goods and services on people with deteriorating purchasing power, two types of people have emerged in Malawi. Cry babies and creators.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and development partners under the Common Approach to Budget Support (Cabs) shoved down the throat of President Joyce Banda’s administration the bitter pill of economic reform in order to cure the country’s chronic balance of payment problems sandwiched by foreign exchange and fuel shortages that epitomised the last two years of the former President late Bingu wa Mutharika’s reign.

On her visit to Malawi last week, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde noted that the southern African nation was going hardships because of its “bold” commitment to economic reforms which have already started to show “significant progress in addressing serious imbalances that were hampering economic growth.”

Indeed Malawians have since the implementation of the reforms, experienced a high cost of living forcing consumer warlord, John Kapito, to react by wielding at Banda’s regime a social and political knife that further threaten to cut down the country’s economy to a new low and bring the government on its knees by compounding its problems with additional costs of human, infrastructural and industrial loss – price tags he casually puts on the government’s head as a result of the anti-establishment protests he is thirsty to ignite and starving to see.

Kapito, the executive director of Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA), a consumer rights group with about 100, 000 followers, has challenged government to mitigate the effects of the donor dosage of economic reforms and cut on public spending including trimming the size of cabinet and reducing foreign and local travel by the top leadership of the ruling People’s Party (PP).

The rights group has since threatened to mobilise nation-wide demonstrations on January 17 to force government to address its six point demands.

However, the consumer watchdog has failed to impress the footprints of its agenda on the country’s prominent human rights groups such as the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) comprising over 96 human rights member groups and the country’s largest labour movement, the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU), organisations that orchestrated the 2011, July 20 demonstrations to force the former president to improve on economic and political governance.

Mike Chisasula, coordinator for the Society for Social Advancement, Literacy and Development (Sosalid) challenges Kapito to take a sober approach that would see the citizens emerge from the country’s economic crisis stronger by helping them use their energies more productively than agitating to thrust them into a bottomless pit.

“Kapito is missing an opportunity to engage the masses in more positive and productive ways,” Chisasula says adding that what Malawians need is a change in their mindset that government and industries are keeping the people poor and monopolising wealth.

He observes that in time of crisis people have to think creatively and realise that human beings live in a world that seems to emphasise scarcity and lack, “and yet the truth is that the world is full of abundance for those who seek, knock and ask.”

The social commentator refers to a Nation Newspaper publication of last September which carried a story of a 30-year-old standard six drop-out, Joseph Mahara, who rode out of the world of poverty by creatively thinking of melting old aluminium gear boxes, pistons, cylinder heads and other motor vehicle parts to make pots which he sells in Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial mecca.

Chisasula also points at Henry Kachaje, a local entrepreneur who has in the midst of the country’s crisis risen up to launch the Entrepreneurship Revolution Program (ERP) that aims to recruit 200,

000 entrepreneurs, who will in turn create 1, 000, 000 jobs by December 2017 thereby contributing to the growth and development of the nation.

“It is time to innovate. It is time to think more creatively and start doing things differently,” says Kachaje who observes that there comes a time when the economy goes so bad that the usual ways are no longer viable.

Kachaje believes that instead to relying on the government to pull the people out of poverty, it should be upon every Malawian to take the responsibility of physical and mental resources in the stewardship of the nation and the whole world.

“Despite what some people may want you to believe, it is a fact that the Malawian economy and indeed those of some European countries are going through some turbulent times,” he says. “I pray we will make some wise decisions that will turn around our fragile economy instead of burying our heads in the sand like the ostrich hoping things will improve soon enough.”

The self made revolutionary businessman believes that the change in the people’s way of conducting themselves can reduce and in the long run eradicate poverty.

He quotes Sir Richard Branson, the British serial Entrepreneur of Virgin Group with over 350 companies worldwide, who wrote in his book, Business Stripped Bare: “No other social system can compete with the entrepreneurial free market system in terms of productivity, raising standards of living and creating permanent prosperity.”

Chisasula points out that poverty has been destroyed in the West while Asia has exploded out of the yoke of scarcity by toning their frail economies with thinking and doing things in more positive and productive ways.

“We should hold political leaders to account for their undertakings but waiting for them to bring about financial freedom for the masses will be naïve and unachievable,” he said.

The IMF chief said she was impressed with a group of women supported by Microloan Foundation of Malawi.

“I was particularly inspired by their resilience and entrepreneurship,” she said observing that, notwithstanding the country’s hardships, many of her interlocutors were confident that the on going reforms will turn Malawi’s economy around.

© 2013, Charles Mkula. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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