“We must be careful with Peter’s seeming quietude,” so irreverently wrote my young colleague Mada Musa last Friday on his no-holds-all-barred Tales of Times column in The Daily Times, “because we might be thinking the old man has locked himself somewhere thinking about the nation yet he is asleep and snoring heavily.”
The kwacha is in a free-fall now. It has cruised past 500 units to the mighty green buck, a 20 percent depreciation in two months.
Ok, Joyce Banda devalued the local currency by a whopping 49 percent and let it float. This after her eccentric predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika resisted any tinkering of the kwacha against the wise counsel from the Bretton Woods institutions and local economists.
The Big Kahuna even famously advised the Chikaondas of this world to go rinse their brain in Omo for advising him it was high time he eased control over the kwacha.
Of course after Ama released the kwacha prices of goods and services shot right through the roof. But donors came to her rescue and injected nearly a billion dollars into the economy. The kwacha stabilised, we no longer needed to wait for three months just to get US $500 in banks and fuel queues that characterised Bingu’s reign in the twilight of his life suddenly disappeared.
But now we are back where we were two years ago, the kwacha is in a tailspin, prices of goods and services are going south…I shudder to imagine us back to chasing water bowsers thinking they are fuel tankers!
Actually, if the truth be told, the salary increases we celebrated in the civil service are now useless for their nominal value has been wiped out.
And yet State House is behaving as if everything is normal. We know there is not much President Mutharika can do but we at least need assurances that our leader is aware of the situation and is doing something about it.
When Barack Obama suffered a ‘shellacking’ at the mid-term elections last week, the US president quickly summoned the opposition Republican leaders to the White House. Peter, too, must acknowledge we are in a crisis and has to assure us he is doing something about it.
We appreciate he is not on the road daily. But he can still assure us he is in control from the confines of his office.