A farmer owed millions to a sly shylock – ‘wakatapila’; who coincidentally had evil designs on the farmer’s devastatingly beautiful teenage daughter.So, the loan shark proposed a ‘solution’; offering to cancel the debt if the farmer’s daughter married him much to the consternation of the farmer and his daughter. Nothing, they agreed, could be more repulsive!

But since the shylock was holding all the aces, he insisted and proposed a bet.

He would put two pebbles, one black and another one white, into an empty money bag from which the girl would pick one.

• If she picked the black pebble, she would marry him and her father’s debt would be forgiven.
• If she picked the white one she wouldn’t marry him, but her father’s debt would nevertheless be forgiven.
• Refusing to pick one would see her dad jailed.

So, the three met on a pebble-strewn path in the village. As they talked, the loan-shark bent over and picked two pebbles. But as he was picking them up, the girl noticed that the old goat had picked two black pebbles and thrown them into the bag.

He then asked the girl to do her part.

Blues’ Orators, what would you have done if you were the girl? I will let you digest this a while.

The situation that this young girl and her farmer father were in is not different from ours where thanks to the profligacy of decadent leadership, we are owe $1.9 (K2.1 trillion) and the Finance Minister, Goodal Gondwe says we shouldn’t “concentrate on the figure but on blah! blah! blah!”

What I find impudent in Goodal’s statement is not that he knows that what he is saying is pure garbage, but that he won’t be around to repay the burden he wants us to overlook.

Again, his irresponsible statement is a U-turn from section 35 subsection one of chapter eight of the 2014 Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) manifesto, “managing the public debt” where the party vowed to restrict borrowing.

It promised to institute strict controls and monitoring of borrowing to ensure that we don’t borrow beyond our capacity to repay, which is what the DPP has driven us to.

Chapter eight of same manifesto promises to increase our productive and export capacity to increase foreign exchange earnings through value addition and diversification and hence alleviate debt-servicing by increased ability to repay the debts.

And this is the crux of the matter.

Because DPP is pumping money into self-enrichment (read: corruption) and consumption via corruption-ridden FISP and Malata subsidies (read: appeasement of cronies); the private sector – strangulated by punitive taxes, unpaid bills and lack of power- is failing to produce enough so that we can export more than we import.

Am not done yet.

The same manifesto discourages borrowing for luxuries but encourages borrowing for industrialisation and income-generating activities. How, if I may ask, is President Peter Mutharika’s new Lexus promoting “industrialisation”?

The DPP then lied that it will dialogue with practically everybody and negotiate so that old loans be written off.

Didn’t this happen in 2006/07? Didn’t the HIPC debt relief just encourage the same DPP to conjure cash-gate?

And we all know that with the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) sponsoring graft, no creditor in their right mind can write-off our man-made debt.

Now hear this: according to Gondwe, our problem is that the revenue percentage allocated to loan servicing is too low compared to other countries. He cited Kenya as an example.

“I have just come from Kenya and what is happening there is very interesting. Members of Parliament were saying …that next year something like 40 percent of their revenue will go to servicing the debt. I looked at our figures here, it is 12 percent. So, really quite frankly. We are not doing badly because most of what we borrow in this country is concessionary money. In fact, in most cases we have grants,” he said.

What Gondwe conveniently omitted was that Kenya’s balance of payments is healthier than ours because deliberate policies have boosted exports while we have been busy cash-gating with impunity and incapacitating ESCOM.

To make matters worse, the bulk of our debt is foreign. The US$1.9 billion (approximately K1.31 trillion) means that whenever the US$ appreciates, our debt in Kwacha terms worsens.

Now I revert to the tale I started with. Before anyone gets wise to offer advice, let’s solve our issue first because charity begins at home.

Both us and the girl are being held ransom by sly and gluttonous old folk.

And in both cases, the way out is heeding what Martin Luther King said: a man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.

If the girl bends over, the Katapila gangster will have his way and take her home for ‘dinner’.

I know you are disgusted by this thought, so am I.

But then look at yourself. Ask yourself why you are bending over and allowing the Gondwes and other ‘Unokas’ saddle you with debts you will repay long after they are gone.

In fact, stop worrying about the girl because unlike Malawians, she knew that her fate was in her hands, and was paying attention to the old man antics.

She solved it.

Required to pick one pebble, she inserted her hand into the moneybag, and drew out a pebble. Then without glancing at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately blended with others.

“Oh, how clumsy of me!” she sweetly smiled, “But never mind, look into the bag for the one that remains, you will surmise which pebble I picked!”

The shylock was outmanoeuvred because he couldn’t reveal that he had in fact tried to play unfair by picking stones of the same colour.

Thus, the girl was saved and her father freed. Had she been Malawian, tikanamva zothayitha (she would’ve been mincemeat).

Think about this and save yourselves and Malawi from doom.

NBS Bank Your Caring Bank