By Iommie Chiwalo
The Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has moved in to wake up President Lazarus Chakwera and his administration to from deep slumber by devising mechanisms that will resuscitate the country’s economy from its death bed.
The move by CDEDI follows country’s economic status which is heading south as evidenced by the rationing of essential goods and services, scaling down of local production due to scarcity of foreign currency, the ever-weakening Malawi kwacha and increasing electricity load shading hours.
In a press statement signed by its Executive Director, Sylvester Namiwa and made available to this publication, CDEDI has challenged the President and his administration to ring-fence forex for essential services and products such as drugs and medicines, fuel, wheat and cooking oil, before the situation gets out of hand.
Namiwa observes that the dire economic outlook is dampening the spirits and aspirations of Malawians each and every passing day with headlines clearly pointing to a clueless and helpless leadership.
“Just to cite a few examples, CDEDI has learnt with shock revelations that this month the country has only managed to secure forex just enough to procure essential drugs and medicines for 20 days, production in most of local industries is at zero, essential commodities such as cooking oil and sugar are being rationed in shops, reputable airlines have scaled down their services in the country due to unavailability of forex, businesses have grounded to a halt due to the unavailability of forex,” says Namiwa.
With the prevailing trends, Namiwa has on a sad note observed that Malawi will soon begin to needlessly lose productive lives to preventable diseases due to lack of drugs and medicines in both the public and private health facilities.
CDEDI is of the view that the current government erred big time by cancelling the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Credit Facility (ECF).
“As they say bad politics makes bad economics, apparently, we have established that such a costly decision was made to accommodate their litany of campaign promises such as the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP), the duty-free week, not forgetting the global trotting by President Chakwera and his Cabinet. Such extravagance would have certainly have put the IMF programme off track, hence the cancellation,” he narrates.
CDEDI has also been vindicated on indecisiveness of current government through its recent letter to Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe who did not bother to either respond or only acknowledge receipt of the said letter.
In the letter, CDEDI was demanding an explanation on the status of forex in the country, and policies that have been put in place to reverse current trends.
“With inflation rate as high as 15.7 percent, Malawians have now lost the pride that goes with being a citizen of this great nation, as they are trying in vain day and night to save their families from starvation.
It is worth pointing out that for the past two years of current regime, the business community has survived on the parallel market to access forex to run economy. It is, therefore, a mockery for the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), to peg the US dollar at MWK825 when, in fact, the authorities are aware that the green buck is not available in the first place and wherever it is found, the rate is pegged at more than MWK1,150. It is sad that government is exerting negative energy by blaming everyone and everything from the Covid-19 pandemic to the war in Ukraine and not its poor leadership for the skyrocketing cost of living, thereby conveniently forgetting that Malawi is a predominantly importing and consuming nation, hence any rate of fall of the kwacha means more misery for the people,” he observes.
And CDEDI is further demanding Chakwera to swallow his pride and accept that the involvement of his government’s high ranking officials in forex externalisation, non-trickling of proceeds from the sales of agricultural commodities on the international market such as South Sudan and India and his own cluelessness in running State affairs, saying are some of the reasons that have pushed the country’s economy into the ditch.
“With President Chakwera’s tendency of shielding corruption, it is not automatic that Malawi will get the IMF nod. He should not put all the eggs in one basket by banking all his hopes on the IMF, which by the way is not a charitable
organisation. This therefore, calls for plan ‘B’,” says Namiwa.
He has further urged government to plan and act for a future that must be defined saying as it stands now, Malawi is on autopilot and, unfortunately, the captain is in deep slumber,”
Apart from CDEDI, more CSOs have expressed displeasure with Chakwera’s style of leadership which they say is benchmarking to dictatorship.
Companies are now scaling down as they cannot spend more on expenditures than the revenue.
Basic commodities are not only expensive but are also not available.