Political and economic pundits have described the year 2017 as challenging to Malawians and warned that things may get worse, especially if government fails to change its direction.
Among things that challenged Malawians in 2017 according to analysts include government’s failure to deal with corruption, end power blackouts, Electoral Reforms Bills, Zambia maize saga, regionalism, favouritism, crippling of health services in public hospitals, education interruption in both primary and public universities among others.
Additionally crimes that included killing and abduction of albinos as well as bloodsuckers. Myth. Natural disasters such as floods and armyworms that affected the agriculture sector.
The analysts corroborated that year 2017 would have built strong momentum for the Peter Mutharika administration as the economy began to stabilise, but missteps spoiled it all.
The commentators say although the country has seen inflation falling to single digit, the kwacha holding its own and interest rates heading to record lows, the unprecedented power blackouts and the refusal by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to pass the Electoral Reforms Bills have spoiled the gains.
According to them, the gains from the macroeconomic stability have not trickled down to poor Malawians against the backdrop of unprecedented power outages threatening long-term economic recovery.
Chancellor College-based political and social analyst Ernest Thindwa said “The economic stability is mostly being enjoyed by the corporate world through the reduction of lending rates, but to the poor Malawian, life is still a struggle. Besides, the effects of the power blackouts on the economy will remain for years to come. We also expected government to decisively deal with corruption, but to the disappointment of many, those close to the ruling clique are being spared from prosecution.”
Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Dalitso Kubalasa pointed out that the ceaseless financial mismanagement in the public sector, as mentioned in financial reports, were sucking out resources meant for poor Malawians.
In his remarks, Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) president Chikumbutso Kalilombe lauded the decline of food and non-food inflation where headline inflation dropped to 7.7 percent in November.
However, in separate interview the opposition, Peoples Party (PP) spokesperson Noah Chimpeni and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka blamed the government for what he called “broken promises” and poor leadership.
While commending government for some achievements in 2017, PAC chairperson Reverend Felix Chingota described the year as a lost opportunity to deal with violence, fight corruption and turnaround the fortunes of the country by withdrawing the Electoral Reforms Bills.
“One such good example happened during the cultural festival of the Tumbukas known as Gonapamuhanya. The deputy major of Lilongwe City Council also had to leave a State function at BICC [Bingu International Convention Centre] for fear of being harassed by DDP cadets. In Thyolo, during the Chilembwe Day celebrations, the leader of the opposition in Parliament had to be whisked away for fear of being victimized,” he said.
The pundits suspected that the above problems contributed to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party ‘s (DPP) loss in five by-elections held in October this year where DPP lost in two Parliamentary by-elections in Lilongwe and one in Nsanje to Malawi Congress Party (MCP), and won only a ward councillor’s seat in Mayani, Dedza.
However, government spokesperson and Minister of Information, Nicholas Dausi said government had created a sound economic environment in the year 2017, where banks had been advised to reduce lending rates to spur growth in both the formal and informal sectors.
“The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) has already communicated to commercial banks to reduce lending rates so that the common people can equally benefit from the reduction at the top. As for the drive against corruption, this is a continuous struggle. All stakeholders must work together but as a government, we have already shown resolve that even Cabinet ministers are not spared,” said Dausi.
Commenting on power generation problems, Dausi said there are efforts—both short and long-term—to solve the energy crisis in the country. The Electricity Generation Company (Egenco) can only produce 200 megawatts (MW) against the national demand of 350 MW a development that forced many firms to scale down production while others turned to the use of the more expensive diesel engines to power production lines.