"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Malawi paying a price for the political choice we made in 1994 and 1999 electing Dr. Bakili Muluzi as President whose government recklessly borrowed from the domestic market, leaving us and our children with a huge debt burden to settle

Honourable Folks, coming from a background of financial mediocrity that led to frequent closure of the donor aid tap during the Bakili Muluzi administration, the news that multilateral donors have now forgiven 90 percent of our USD2.9 billion external debt is quite a remarkable achievement by the Bingu wa Mutharika administration.
Congratulations Mr. President and your government! I fully understand the excitement that led to the special presidential address to the nation through MBC and TVM on Friday night, hours after World Bank, IMF and Ministry of Finance announced the good news at a joint press conference in Blantyre.
The debt relief means we won’t have to spend K15 billion annually servicing the external debt for the next 20 years. Quite a big save indeed and, used prudently, can make a difference in the social and economic spheres of life. I think I’m justified to assume that part of this money will be spent on drugs for our public hospitals so that they can stop being called “departure lounge” for the grave.
Education, too, needs attention if our children are to avoid getting jobs fraudulently by using fake certificates as is already the case now. We do not only need chalk, books and other material resources but also well-qualified and properly-trained teachers to take over from the secondary school dropouts who are currently cheating pupils in the many unregulated public and private schools that came with multipartyism.
In agriculture, there’s need for an urgent and serious campaign to wean villagers from rain-fed farming which makes us beg for food virtually annually when Lake Malawi and Shire River have fresh water flowing along the entire length of the country from Karonga to Nsanje the whole year round. Why not combine rain-fed and irrigation farming so that we can harvest three to four times as is already happening in the Manthimba Irrigation Scheme in Thyolo?
How I wish the previous regime had controlled borrowing from the domestic market. We would’ve been saving much more than K15 billion annually!
Unfortunately, domestic debts incurred by the previous regime to finance imprudent public spending are 100 percent the burden of yours and mine. Only that as we are struggling to pay, it’s better to realise we are paying a price for the political choice we made in 1994 and 1999. We elected Dr. Bakili Muluzi as President whose government recklessly borrowed from the domestic market, leaving us and our children with a huge debt burden to settle. I hope this should teach Malawians to be more critical in future elections.
But while Mutharika seems to be making enviable strides on the economy, his political performance is a disaster. Media reports portray Mutharika as a person who is desperately using bare hands to prevent political turbulence from destroying his political pillar, DPP. As the Attorney General’s office is trying, through the courts, to save the political careers of MPs who defected to DPP from other parties represented in Parliament, Mutharika himself, has a tough time convincing the MPs and other MPs that his party is anything but quick sand.
Reports indicate that this week he had an audience with some of the defectors who allegedly wanted to go back to the parties that sponsored them before the courts rule on section 65, trying to convince them that they are safe in DPP. As this is happening, the Hon. Joyce Banda has quit DPP as secretary general, former Attorney General Ralph Kasambara and regional governor for the South Samson Msosa have quit the party altogether.
Have we seen the last of these resignations? Hard to tell. There is absolutely no basis for optimism, especially considering that DPP is predominantly made of “recycled” politicians who ditched their old parties not so much for the love of Mutharika (there was none in 1999) as it was for the money and opportunities contained in his presidential wallet.
Mutharika is likely to be significantly detracted from the business of running government if he has to get involved in patching up holes that easily appear on the walls of his unstable DPP. The question is: is it worth it?
To build DPP, Mutharika had to poach from MCP, UDF and other parties, thereby souring relations with leaders of these parties. They are so bitter that they don’t even attend public functions. Sometimes they vent their wrath on innocent Malawians like Tumalisye Ndovi who has been denied the opportunity to serve as director of the Anti Corruption Bureau for no clear reason.
DPP has also been a cause of strained relations between Mutharika and the civil society. They don’t like the use of vehicles from statutory corporations for carrying DPP supporters to presidential functions. Yet, for all the trouble, DPP still remains too weak numerically in Parliament to enable the Mutharika administration to push important bills on its own.
Am I the only one who sees the folly of depending in Parliament on the goodwill of the same opposition parties the government side poaches from in its desperate efforts to make DPP an effective ruling party?


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