“Life is not
a problem to be solved,
but a reality
to be experienced”
President Peter Mutharika used tens of pages full of thousands of words and figures containing dreams, hopes, fantasies, truths, half-truths and complete fallacies to describe his fantastical state of the nation.
I will use only three words to describe the true state of the nation: Malawi is in a ‘state of flux’. The peanuts we pay civil servants, for example, no longer come on time. We cannot even buy essential drugs in our hospitals because government is broke.
And very soon a third of us will go hungry.
And the private sector, which is touted to be the engine of the economy, is not ticking because government owes it billions. As a result every day firms are laying off workers because they cannot afford to pay them.
This will adversely affect the state of the nation since low production means low taxes and, therefore, low development.
But somehow people still have to eat as South African acerbic politician Julius Malema wisely put it, “food will never go out of fashion”.
And we are supposed to be surprised when, only days after being rescued from possible death during the xenophobic attacks in South Africa some Malawian young men are trying to smuggle themselves back to the rainbow nation?
Look, to most of these young men being rescued from the Zulu knobkerrie only to be dumped in Malawi means one and the same thing – eventual death. It is almost like jumping from a heated saucepan right on to the fire.
The scenario above paints not only a hopeless but helpless situation. And that, sadly, is the state of the nation.
Government is pinning its hopes on the magical community colleges and village polytechnics that the President launched the other day. But, without the critical balance between skills and opportunities, that will only worsen the situation.
As someone has already observed, if these community colleges and polytechnics are to be a success they will only overwhelm the already saturated market.
This is how I mean: if a village had, say, two tailors, at the end of a year of these community colleges and polytechnics the village will suddenly have, say, ten tailors competing for the same unexpanding market.
If a village had four builders salivating for the ambitious Malata and Cement Subsidy Programme, at the end of one year of these community colleges and polytechnics the village will have a boom of 25 skilled builders.
The scenario will be replicated in many disciplines. So we will be back to square zero where skilled young people will be jumping on the next bus to the same xenophobic South Africa to try their luck.
So the lasting solution is for government to fix the economy so that it starts creating jobs internally. Fixing the economy, of course, is not easy but certainly not an impossible task if we have a focused government with focused policies.
Do we have that focused government now?
Peter Mutharika has been in power for at least 100 days already but how many jobs has he created? Well, perhaps a hundred days are not enough to create enough jobs to go around but had it hit the ground running with pro-active policies the Mutharika administration could have created at least, say, ten thousand jobs by now.
Look, how many trained teachers and medics are waiting to be hired? Thousands! And yet there are thousands of vacancies in schools and hospitals. If government snaps this already trained and ready human resource into its system, how many job-seekers can be taken off the dole?
But why are these cadres not being hired despite the yawning vacancies in the system? Simple: government is so broke it cannot pay them.
And yet there are billions lying idle somewhere ready to bail out some crooks who robbed a bank.
This is an example of a government with confused policies.
The DPP government is working tirelessly to ‘sweet talk’ donors who were ran out of town by the first DPP government. The donors were slowly crawling back during the brief PP administration only to be scared away again by ‘cashgate’, the systematic plunder of public coffers.
The new DPP government is doing the needful by prosecuting those suspected to be responsible for this malfeasance but donors have taken the ‘once beaten twice shy’ stance. They want a holistic approach to ‘cashgate’ so that the cancer is dealt with once and for all. They want go as far back as to the genesis of ‘cashgate’ – which, unfortunately, goes to as back as the original DPP government.
But instead of doing the needful government is procrastinating because such a trawl will net some names close to the powers-that-be. So the people we call leaders are willing to sacrifice the rest of us just to save a few sacred names.
In this way, to use one Lazarus Chakwera irreverent but apt term, Peter Mutharika will be a perennial babysitter for a marasmic child who will be refusing to grow for lack of proper nutrients. Is Peter Mutharika willing to be such a babysitter for a stunted growing Malawi for five years?
The choice is his.