Thoughts on the recovery plan
Honourable Folks, the delineation of MDGS II in the name of economic recovery plan may be the prudent thing to do to ensure our meagre resources are allocated to areas that can fast-track what we want to achieve—production for export.
But in the name of out-of-the-box thinking, I believe the way of doing things is just as important as planning what we want to do.
Let us learn from operations gurus; they pitch on one of the four competitive priorities—price, flexibility, quality and time. How? They seek to excel on the chosen competitive priority while pegging the other three at the industrial average.
They choose one among the four competitive priorities to excel in for much the same reason as government has for the pruning of priority goals of the MDGSII—resources. It’s virtually impractical to pitch and excel on all four competitive priorities due to the limitation of resources and know-how.
Yet, they also recognise that it is virtually impossible to excel in any one of the competitive priorities if performance in the other three is a total flop; hence, the need to nurture them to the “industrial” average rating.
If as cheetahs, we borrow the model above for the production of made-in-Malawi goods and services which can sell abroad to earn our economy the much-needed foreign exchange, then key words are ‘excel’ and instead of industrial average, we could settle for ‘market average.’
What it means is that we should aim at excelling in the MDGSII priority goals selected to fast track the economic recovery plan while doing all we can to ensure that the other MDGSII goals are not completely abandoned but worked on to match market average scorecard ratings.
That can be easier said than done unless there is the collective will to enhance our competitiveness. In case you haven’t heard, we’ve tripped on the Global Competitiveness Index rating by 12 steps from 117 last year to 129, according to World Economic Forum.
I do not believe that this retrogression is due to lack of planning. In the late ‘90s we hatched a beautiful Vision 2020 through which we were to transform into a middle income economy by the year 2020. How I hate waking up today, with only eight years left, only to realise that we are in fact getting poorer by the day!
The late Bingu wa Mutharika is the one who mooted the dream to transform Malawi from a consumer-importing to a producer-exporting economy at his inauguration in 2004. Yet, today, eight years down the lane, we are not only failing to produce for export but we are also running short of foreign exchange needed for us to import!
By rehashing the economic recovery plan, the JB administration is just trying to polish the economic plan of the Mutharika administration to a gem-like point. This is truly commendable. What, unfortunately, is totally neglected and probably deliberately undermined, is the efficiency factor in the public sector.
Anyone who has built a house knows that delays can push costs of a project over the roof twice or three times over. We have seen delays in the construction of Mponela-Ntchisi Road, Jali-Chitakale via Phalombe Road and Golomoti-Monkey-Bay Road leading to doubling, if not trebling, of their initial budgets. We have also heard from government itself that inefficiency, fraud and corruption cost about 30 percent its revenue. Others have estimated that corruption accounts for 5 percent of GDP.
How then can we expect results from the economic recovery plan if government does not curb wastage and corruption?
So much has been said already about strengthening the capacity of public institutions such as Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Auditor General’s office, the Ombudsman, Director of Public Procurement and the Malawi Human Rights Commission, meant to check excesses and provide those exercising powers of the state with checks and balances.
Suffice it to say that I know the Asset Declaration Committee of Parliament for nothing other than recommending a ridiculous pay-hike for MPs. The Constitution requires the President, Vice President, Ministers, MPs and top officials in government to declare assets but no law has been enacted to-date to enforce compliance. The JB administration is not even talking about it!
As for managing for results, we already have laws meant to make controlling officers answerable for over-expenditure. These became effective in 2005 but to-date no controlling officer has been held to account despite the many cases of extravagance committees of
Parliament and the Auditor-General have exposed.
There was also a time when Principal Secretaries were put on performance-based contracts. Yet contracts or no contracts, government is rewarding the deadwood and workaholics much the same. Why should anyone feel it pays to work for results that way? Government simply has to take a business approach or we are doomed.