Who pays for political mistakes?
Somehow, comments from the public as monitored from various radio stations indicate mixed reactions; some welcome the devaluation, but others argue as if there were a better alternative somewhere.
The issue that dominates the anti-devaluation side of the debate is the resultant high cost of living. They wonder how the poor would cope with a huge currency devaluation of 50 percent. Some naively say Bingu wa Mutharika has been vindicated.
Interestingly, Mutharika, himself, took a firm stand against devaluation, arguing it would bring untold suffering to the rural poor. His administration held the kwacha at 168 to the dollar by political strings when its real market value had plunged to K300 to a dollar.
That decision—and the bad governance and lack of respect for human rights that came along with it—reversed our economic fortunes in under one fiscal year.
The story of shortages caused by the scarcity of the dollar is probably too hackneyed to be cited again here.
Suffice it to say that the zero-deficit budget the Mutharika administration introduced last year following a rift with IMF and donors who, like the majority of Malawians, did not like the way Malawi was being managed has turned out to be a miserable flop.
Finance Minister Ken Lipenga this week admitted MRA used K15 billion it borrowed from commercial banks to shore up the domestic revenue so as to make the zero-deficit budget appear doable during the mid-year review in Parliament.
What a shame! What other lies did innocent Malawians gobble from the Mutharika regime?
Former Finance minister Goodall Gondwe is on record as having said the devaluation was long overdue.
How I wish Gondwe and his colleagues were able to tell Mutharika while they were in Cabinet the truth they are telling us now instead of always hand-clapping to arrogant Executive decisions made under the influence of too much political power!
The least they can do now is tell the people their government was to blame for the huge devaluation that we must suffer now.
Zero-deficit budgeting is what any independent sovereign State would aspire for, but what sane economist would think a government whose budget has a 40 percent donor aid component can suddenly do away with that and survive?
The only reason the Mutharika administration fast-tracked the so-called economic emancipation from the bondage of neo colonialism is because the donors, except China, demanded good governance and respect for human rights as a condition for their aid.
Mutharika was not ready for good governance during his second term. It is exactly the same kind of mistake his predecessor Bakili Muluzi made while serving his second and last term. Most, likely it was time they wanted to make hay while the sun was still shining.
It was also time to contemplate the possibility of losing the enormous power they enjoyed and the trappings that come with it to another person, possibly an “enemy” from the opposition side.
Of course, the possibility of losing power comes with another risk, especially for those who abuse it while in office, displaying opulence and extravagance—the possibility of getting arrested.
The mess that has so far characterises the accursed second term in democratic Malawi is a reflection of desperate attempt to avoid being held accountable for the abuse of power while in office.
Although the president fills vacancies in the Cabinet and other top public offices as a constitutional or statutory requirement, most of those appointed worry more about securing tenure in their comfort zones than doing what is right in the service of their people.
Hence, they allow the hiring authority the luxury of playing god and say nothing when things go wrong for fear of losing their jobs.
If such infamy must continue—and we, citizens tolerate it—at least we have our experience in the 18 years of multiparty dispensation to learn from and realise that it is the electorate that pay the full price of any mistakes made by those we elect into office.
The 50 percent devaluation has been made to correct the economic mess created by the Mutharika administration we overwhelmingly voted for in 2009. Before we get there, we shall have to bite the lower lip as inflation makes shopping of basic commodities a nightmare.