Haste is key but vigilance is vital
A familiar refrain is playing out across the country and it is not one we are comfortable with. The spectre of hunger is looming ominously over the country in a repeat of events of yesteryears.
The government, however, should be applauded for moving in fast by putting up measures to arrest the development before it gets out of hand.
We would have preferred if the food for work programme started without delays as some parts of the country are already facing acute food shortages.
It is our opinion that the programme would also go a long way in mitigating against the effects of the 50 percent devaluation of the kwacha.
That inevitable decision pushed the cost of goods and services through the roof and it would only be prudent for the government to cushion vulnerable people's livelihood in these hostile economic times.
Having said that, however, we are also painfully mindful of how such social protection programmes, while instituted with the best of intentions to mitigate against hostile social and economic environments, have become something of a poisoned chalice.
The programmes have tended to be abused by intended beneficiaries, petty crooks and most worryingly, government employees entrusted with the running of the programmes, with few of them being made to account for their misdemeanours. Needless to say, some have criticised handouts for trapping its beneficiaries in the grasp poverty as they create a dependence syndrome but that is neither here nor there.
What is critical at this stage is how President Joyce Banda's government will ensure the aged, young people, the sick, the disabled and the needy will get through this humanitarian situation, without having unscrupulous individuals benefitting more than the intended beneficiaries.
Stringent measures should be put in place so that only deserving beneficiaries are made part of the food for work programme.