The year 2017 has taken us to the year 2018. We have every reason to kneel down and thank God the Almighty who keeps the seasons and the times that keep us going. Malawi has come a long way. We have all come a long way. I want to thank every one of you for your initiatives and hardwork that keep our country going.
Remember, it is what you do in your home, in every work place, every business and every day that keeps Malawi moving. We are the generation to take Malawi to prosperity. We know we can make Malawi a better place because we have proved that it is possible.
Remember that soon after Bingu’s death in 2012, our currency devalued with over 190 per cent. By February 2013, inflation rose to 37.9 per cent. Then Cashgate followed in 2013 and plundered our treasury. We lost donor confidence, and lost budget support. We lost confidence in our economy.
We lost confidence in the spirit of doing business. Now, we are seeing the return of our confidence. This country was almost bankrupt when I took over in 2014. We had a deficit of K532 billion, which was almost equal to the annual budget at the time.
We have managed the economy without donor budget support. We have managed the economy through economic shocks of national disasters. We survived national floods, drought and famine for two consecutive years.
Now, our future looks better.
The economy is growing again. From 2.7 per cent, the economy has risen to 6.4 per cent of real GDP growth. Inflation has fallen to the single digit of 7.7 per cent.
Over the past one year prices of many commodities have remained stable. Prices of fuel have not increased for more than one year now. Our local currency has been stable. For the first time in our history, our forex reserves have risen to 5.6 months import cover.
The Reserve Bank of Malawi has just announced the reduction of the policy rate from 18 per cent to 16 per cent. We expect commercial banks to follow suit and reduce lending rates. This will make borrowing money from commercial banks cheaper and easier.
I want a farmer, a teacher, a nurse, a soldier, a policeman or policewoman to walk into the bank and walk out with a loan that can build him or her a house somewhere. That is the Malawi we want to be.
With affordable loans from commercial banks, we can free business women struggling with hard loans from bank mkhonde and katapila to make ends meet.In 2018, I will ensure that our economy grows more to benefit more people because that is what inclusive development is about.
My Fellow Malawians,
It has taken everybody’s patriotism and hardwork to turn around our economic situation. It took us all to make 2017 a productive year. I have seen vendors and minibus drivers working hard to look after their families. They are not happy because they get more, but because they are determined to build more on the little they have. That is our spirit.
I have seen more and more businesses paying their taxes voluntarily and on time. This is our love for our country. We have seen more women taking long and tiresome trips to South Africa, Tanzania, Dubai and China to import goods for their businesses.
These are women who challenge us to believe in self-dependence, because prosperity never comes by depending on others. We have seen teachers working way into the night to prepare lessons for their students. These are people who make the nation.
We have seen health workers walking door to door, giving advice to families in our villages. We have seen them giving their best to treat the sick in our hospitals. These are people who heal the nation.
We have seen our men and women in uniform braving rains, storms and dangerous nights to keep us safe. These are people who protect the nation.We have seen our people spending long hours in their fields so that our nation can realize a good harvest. These are people who feed the nation.
Those who drive us; those who educate the nation; those who heal us; those who protect the nation; and those who feed us are the people who make us a proud nation. As we celebrate the year that ended, let us celebrate everyone who contributed to our sound economic performance. We all make Malawi. If we fall, we fall together. If we rise, we rise together.
My Fellow Malawians
In the year that ended, we have made progress that we should build on as we get into 2018. We cannot be complacent. But we have a reason to look forward with hope.
For the first time in our history, you can collect and own a National Identity Card because you are a valued citizen of Malawi. This will go down in history that in the year 2017, we accomplished the National ID project.
For the first time, we are connecting people, businesses, offices and places on a National Optic Fibre Backbone. We are taking Malawi into the digital age and Malawi must have affordable, fast and reliable internet.
For the first time, we are building a Cancer Centre and we are about to begin a military hospital. For the first time, Malawi will have an aerial ambulance. For the first time, we resolved to say goodbye to dusty roads in our towns and cities. You should expect more roads in 2018.
For the first time, we are building roads across villages and rural communities never ever thought about. I want every part of this country connected with decent roads. I want Malawi to have state of the art roads everywhere.
At the same time, this country must have potable water everywhere. We will remember 2017 as the year we commissioned new water supplies in Chitipa and Mangochi.
We launched construction of a water supply in Mzimba. In the South, works have started on the Likhubula Water Supply project, which will tap water from Mulanje Mountain to Blantyre and surrounding areas. That is not all. The Salima-Lilongwe water project is next.
More than ever, we are taking rural electricity to villages and communities never imagined before.
In 2017, we took electricity to most rural places in the country. We are taking development to the people and not taking people to development.
Shortly we will be launching a free access to television project. The project will provide 500 villages across the country free satellite television. This will improve access to information in rural areas.
I am aware that the power shortages of 2017 have been very painful and slowed down our businesses. We are implementing long term plans that will end this problem forever. This problem must be over this year 2018.
This country failed to invest in energy that matches our population growth since colonialism. For 53 years we invested in only 131 Megawatts. As indicated earlier, for the first time, this year in 2018, we will soon be saying farewell to blackouts forever.
Our plans go far beyond the much talked about generators, which are a short term solution. For the first time, power shortage will be history. For the first time in our history, we are establishing community technical colleges to create a skilled labour force. No country can develop without a skilled labour force.
We are determined to continue developing more skills in our youths.
For the first time, we have seen our Foreign Direct Investment program bringing new infrastructure and creating new jobs. In 2018, we should expect more investors and more jobs.
We already have 3.5 billion dollars committed to be invested in Malawi.
My Fellow Malawians
As we enter the year 2018, let us all focus on our collective vision. Let us focus on moving forward. In 2018, our focus is to make the economy perform better. Nothing works with a bad economy.
Malawi must rise from being an importing and consuming nation and become a producing and exporting nation. This is the first vision that you and I share.
By making Malawi a producing and exporting nation, we create more jobs and create wealth for Malawians.
To become a producing and exporting nation, we start with diversifying and commercializing agriculture through irrigation.
In the 2018, we expect the Greenbelt revolution to start empowering more communities. Time has come for our local farmers to become producing and exporting actors of the vision.
The Shire Valley Transformation project is beginning in the 2018. This is a Greenbelt project determined to empower 40,000 (forty thousand) farmers and their families.
The project will create more jobs as we process our produce for export.
Around mid-year in 2018, I expect to launch construction of canals.
We will pump water from Shire River and turn it into gravity-fed irrigation for the farmers. The first phase will begin with 22,300 (twenty-two thousand three hundred) hectares.
In 2018, we are also looking forward to beginning of another massive irrigation project on the scale of 24,000 (twenty-four thousand) hectares.
This is a smart farming project where Nchalo Farmers’ Association will partner with investors who are ready to spend $240 million (two hundred forty million dollars).
These are only some of the agricultural projects set to continue our Greenbelt revolution in 2018.
These projects come in addition to major projects like the Malawi Mango and the Salima Sugar projects where production is happening.
We also expect 100 Million dollars investment on 3 thousand hectares of commercial farming by a company called DF Agritech.
My Fellow Malawians
The future is worth your hope. In order to make Malawi a producing and exporting country, we will bring in more foreign direct investors in 2018.
We want to create a bigger private sector and remain with a smaller Government. Expanding the private sector is creating more jobs and boosting small scale businesses.
In the year 2017, we have seen more foreign direct investors in wood-products manufacturing creating more jobs in Mzimba.
We have seen investors constructing business parks and creating more jobs in Lilongwe and in Blantyre. We have seen business confidence growing in our economy.
Above all, we have seen our local private sector beginning to grow again. The profit for Press Corporation has grown with 90 per cent in 2017 more than their profit in 2016.
Malawi Property Investment Company (MPICO) expects to register 100 per cent profit growth in 2017. Telecom Network Malawi (TNM) is expecting a 60 per cent phenomenal profit growth.
Many more companies have registered profit growth. And these are signs of a private sector growing.
But there is no easy walk to progress. Progress is a long mountainous journey climbed step by step. And little by little, we are getting somewhere.
I am confident to see more and more construction everywhere. Construction is a sign of a boosting economy. Construction creates jobs for everyone and supports businesses.
More than ever, I am seeing new cars on our roads – and Malawians have a high sense of taste. More and more Malawians can now afford to buy a car.
As a result, new filling stations employing our young men and women are rising everywhere. These are signs of a growing economy.
According to Malawi Revenue Authority, we were importing 3,526 vehicles per month in 2016. This number has risen in 2017. This is happening because we have reserved enough forex as a result of sound economic management.
Currently, Malawians are buying and importing 4,047 vehicles per month. This means we are regaining our confidence to spend. Most people have the confidence to spend their excess cash.
Everywhere, young Malawians can now afford to buy a motorbike while in the village. We are moving away from kabaza to the motorbike as a mode of transport in most communities. This is a revolution coming slowly but surely.
Slowly, the rooftops of our villages are changing. In many villages, grass-thatched houses are slowly disappearing. From the sales of tomato, I have seen women buying one iron-sheet after another.
I have seen them carrying iron-sheet after iron-sheet on their head or on the bicycle to build a descent house for themselves. These Malawians demonstrate to us that progress is slow but achievable. They understand the patience of developing a nation.
And I am confident that the Malawi you see today is not the Malawi you will see in five years to come. In the year 2018, we will continue to empower women and youth.
We will continue with the Jobs for Youth program funded by the African Development Bank; continue with cash transfers, loans for the skilled youth and involving women and youth in irrigation programs.
With empowered youth and women, we can take Malawi to prosperity. What we need is to unite and move forward as one country, one people, to one destiny! Let us make the year 2018 a year of hope.
Let us enter this New Year with renewed confidence in our country, and a strong faith in ourselves. We are a capable nation! And together, we will conquer! Together, we can make the year 2018 prosperous.
I wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
May God Bless You all.
May God Bless Our Country.