Be fair and honest in criticising government
By The Daily Times - 31 January 2006 - 03:39:07
THE MUTHARIKA administration has surprised his critics with how long he has kept the kwacha stable, considering how battered the economy was since he took office over a year-and-a-half ago.We have to say that he confounded his critics with how he has managed the economy and earned kudos from Western donors, for adhering to fiscal discipline.Even the renowned economist, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, has spoken in glowing terms about Mutharika’s ability to manage the economy, praising him particularly for enabling the Malawi Government for once to spend within budget, after 12 years of repeatedly going off target.Today the Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) has raised the alarm that the economy might be off course once again and warmed the government to observe fiscal discipline. The alarm comes in the wake of a sudden depreciation of the kwacha, which has taken our currency from an exchange rate of about 1:125 to the US dollar. This is a drop of about 3 percentage points.We take heart that there are economic observers who take a keen interest in developments surrounding the kwacha vis-à-vis other currencies. It goes to show that we are a vigilant nation that will not let itself be taken for a ride; we have among us people that will demand accountability and responsibility from our government.Mejn has pointed out fiscal discipline as one of the victims of the Mutharika administration, citing the President’s frequent foreign travels. How many trips has Mutharika made abroad in recent months and how do they compare with those made by his predecessor? Can we truly blame them for the fall of the kwacha?Mejn has given the government some very specific tips, but how practical is the advice. The organisation claims that the government is spending on luxury items for State House, but gives no examples. We all remember, though, how the State stopped the purchase of three Maybach 62 limousines for the President, the First Lady and State House. What other expense has the President incurred which he should not have?Mejn also surprisingly points at the purchase of maize as another factor that has led to the fall of the kwacha. True but who did not expect it. When Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe pointed out that government did not have the money to import maize and universal subsidised fertiliser, how many of our lawmakers listened to him.They were then spoiling for a fight and would not listen to the gentle voice of reason. That left the government with little choice but to import fertilisers and maize it could ill-afford because the legislators would have it so. It is, therefore, not entirely fair to blame it all on the Mutharika administration when, as a consequence, the kwacha starts tumbling down.The demands on the administration have been overwhelming and, from the response of our traditional donors, it has performed admirably. Yes, we as concerned citizens have a duty to keep an eye on how government is using the public coffers. After all, they belong to us all.Critics of the government must be specific and constructive. A good government will not ignore honest, constructive criticism and we hope the Mutharika administration will not ignore what is within its powers to correct.