By Professor Rasha Maga-Phiri
Malawi Congress Party President, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera has labeled this year’s State of the National Address (SONA) by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) President on May 20, as hot air. He observed that although it was a long speech, it however lacked substance and specifics.
“Mr. Speaker Sir, my overall sense on Friday was that the President came here with grand claims without substance or specifics.
“This is called Hot Air,” said Dr. Chakwera.
He quickly mentioned of that there were no specifics on a plan to turn the economy around; no specifics on the proposed commission to oversee national development issues; no specifics on the links between the performance of different sectors and national economic performance targets; no specifics on actions the government will take to end its irrational dependence on such external forces as the weather.
The MCP leader argued that by stating in the title of his address that the country is moving TOWARDS recovery and development, it showed that the Malawi leader has made it clear that he is satisfied to keep Malawians waiting for the recovery and development of the country.
“However, Mr. Speaker Sir, after twenty-two years of waiting, the people of Malawi do not want any leader to tell them to keep waiting. The people of Malawi do not want to be told that their recovery is still in the future.
“The people of Malawi want, need, and demand results NOW. And so my intention today is to speak directly to Malawians about the true state of this nation and the demands they must make to be led into a better and prosperous Malawi,” Dr. Chakwera emphasised.
The MCP leader, whose address kept every person up on his toes, challenged people to make their own judgment as to who between the two leaders was painting an accurate picture.
Said he: ” I trust that the people of Malawi will judge who between the President speech on Friday and what I say today is saying realities, and which of us is living in the fantasy world of half-truths, denial, and distortions.”
He however observed that empty as the speech was, some commentary on the President’s address would still require some response and said that he would focus his response on matters related to the economy, agriculture, health, rule of law, and other issues of significance to Malawians.
Things fall apart
“Mr. Speaker Sir, Malawians are desperate. They feel that their country has literally fallen apart. The headlines in our daily papers range from stories about theft of drugs in hospitals to long winding queues at ADMARC depots, water rationing, electricity load shedding, the ongoing plunder of public resources in government and in embassies, high inflation, and the rising cost of living and albino killings. So even though the President claims that the economy is stabilizing,” he said.
An indication that all were attentive, including the Leader of the House who during the address of the State president was fast asleep, after Dr. Chakwera’s address, Dr. George Chaponda stood on point of order against a point that said that the only place where the claim could be true was in the State House, where all his bills and living expenses are paid for by Malawian tax-payers.
Dr. Chakwera lamented that for the ordinary Malawian that pays for their own bills and living expenses, there is nothing stable about this economy.
He said that it was no secret that Malawians are suffering and that the Kwacha continues to slide downwards despite all efforts to manipulate the exchange rate.
The recent trends, he observed, showed show that while the Kwacha was artificially made to gain on the United States Dollar from about K765 to K693 to the Dollar, the short lived artificial relief did not last and therefore the Kwacha has gone back to more than K715 to one United States Dollar.
“If we want a truly strong currency, we must base it on a truly strong economy. No amount of manipulation and Band-Aid tactics will change the fact that the economic fundamentals of this country are not right or that the task of fixing them is firmly in the wrong hands.
While acknowledging that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) indeed approved the resumption of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF), the MCP leader observed that it did not make any difference to the common person in the village whose life before and after the resumption of the ECF remains unchanged.
He added: “Besides, isn’t it obvious that the Government’s failed attempts to get Malawi’s international development partners to resume direct budgetary support proves that the confidence of donors is far from restored?”
The Leader of Opposition wondered whether by telling Malawians that the reason for the withdrawal of budgetary support is because of changes in developed countries, when the real reason is our government’s failure to change its wasteful way of doing business, it was a sign that the state of our nation is weak because the government is in a state of confusion.
“Let’s face it: On May 20, 2014, the people went to vote, and two years later, on May 20, 2016, the president stood before the people representatives with nothing resembling the transformation the people demand.
“To put it bluntly, the Mutharika administration is a failed government! Are things getting better with our electricity? Are things getting better with our water supply? Are things getting better with our currency? Are things getting better with our cost of living? Are things getting better within our hospitals? Are things getting better for our unemployed youth? Are things getting better within our schools? Are things getting better for civil servants? Are things getting better for tobacco farmers at the auction floors? Are things getting better for primary and secondary school teachers? Are things getting better for small business owners? So how can the whole president claim that things are getting better? This is unacceptable!” Dr. Chakwera charged.
The MCP resident observed that it is the wish of every Malawian that the economy stabilises, but observed that it never can be before stimulating the economic activities of ordinary Malawians.
“And you can’t stimulate those activities without ending the unaffordable and unrealistic interest rate policy of the Reserve Bank, which seems to base its rate on the price of maize, as if everybody borrows money just to buy maize for eating,” he said.
He further noted that to claim that you want to get Malawians out of poverty when the money they need to start business can only be borrowed at interest rates above 20 percent is unthinkable.
He said: “As a result, the levels of default are very high and Malawians are losing their homes to find relief from the shackles of debt by which their own government is enslaving them. This is criminal”.-Additional reporting by Edward Zadi.