By Charles Mponda
In June 2022, President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera decided to grab the bull by its horn; boldly looked in its eyes and declared that enough is enough, this bull must be put in its place.
Thus, the President made what, then, was seen as a very unpopular statement and move on Malawi’s ‘sick’ economy. He declared to have removed the painkillers as he started giving the economy a real cure, which would mean more pain before the economy is completely cured.
“The Malawi economy has been on sick bed for some time now with multiple organ failures. But we will treat the illness in due course. We will keep each surgery going even if it causes pain,” said President Chakwera when he launched the Private Sector Labs in Lilongwe.
The idea behind the Labs was to get the private sector fully involved in resuscitating the economy. The President’s statement received several negative responses especially from those who are so much focused on immediate benefits of any intervention and not long-term results.
Bold and resolute as he has always been, in July 2022 he repeated his stand and advised Malawians that when a person, who has been very sick is recovering, the symptoms of the sickness do not all disappear at once.
Said President Chakwera: “What happens after a bedridden patient is put on a drip with the right medicine is that for the first few days, the symptoms remain the same and the patient feels like nothing is changing, but even then, all of us know that it would be a tragic mistake to dismantle the drip in protest and denounce it as useless.
“What all of us know is that you must allow the medicine time to enter your blood stream and get to your infected organs. And once that happens, you begin to see your symptom subside, not all at once, but starting with one symptom, and then another, and another, and another, up until all the symptoms are gone and the patient is fully restored to a symptomless state of health.”
Again, this was received with disdain.
Now, with the recent developments happening in this country, I have started realising that although some thought that the President was just using those words to buy time, it is apparent that he was looking at a bigger picture and long-term impact of whatever will be administered on the country’s sick economy. For any well-meaning Malawian, there are clear signs that the President has been on a journey setting the foundation for a better Malawi.
For the past three years we have noted some interventions and projects that are set to change the Malawi story in the long term. Some of the notable activities include the increase of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) from MK40 million to MK100 million and the PAYE tax-free bracket to K100,000.
In the Northern Region we have witnessed notable progress on projects which previously were just a political song such as the Chakazi Bridge in Mzimba; the Mzuzu University Library and Auditorium, the new Mzuzu Civic Offices, the Mzimba DC office complex, Mzimba Stadium, Mzuzu NOCMA to Dunduzu bypass road, Mzuzu Youth Centre, Rumphi-Nyika road, Mzimba-Mzalangwe road, the Ilomba road in Chitipa, and the Likoma Jetty. The same north has witnessed the launch of the Nkhatabay Water and Sanitation Facility.
In the central region there are also a number of life-changing development projects such as construction of the Children’s Hospital and Cancer Centre at Kamuzu Central Hospital, the six-lane Kenyatta Road, Mzimba Street, Crossroads to Kanengo Road, the Lilongwe Bridge expansion, Kasungu Town Roads and the rehabilitation of the 301-kilometre M1 and the M5 roads.
In the eastern and southern regions, we also have several projects which include the Zomba dual carriageway, the Thyolo DC office complex, Phalombe Hospital, and the Chichiri to Kanjedza and the Ndirande-Kachere roads which are both almost done.
On top of all these projects so far more than 1000 houses for the police, army, prison and immigration officers have been completed nationwide. There is also the extension of the Mangochi Potable Water Supply System which has just been launched.
And University of Malawi has had a share of these unprecedented developments with the construction of new and modern facilities such as the administration block, lecture theatres, chemistry and biology laboratories, and the ICT and Business Centres.
Honestly this is the time that Malawi has witnessed developments that have never been seen in years. Some of these projects and the standards being applied were only seen during the Kamuzu Banda time when the founding President set the pace for the country’s development path, only to be abandoned later.
It is also heartwarming and encouraging to note that even on agriculture, the President is living his promises with the launch of mega farms such as the Katunga-Maseya Mega Farm in Chikwawa and Linga in Nkhatabay. Then, for the first time, farmers in Malawi are enjoying the best prices for their produce almost at par with the cost of farm inputs. Previously, it would take 4 50kg bags of maize to buy a single bag of fertiliser while now it takes only two bags to buy the same quantity of fertiliser.
Lastly, going by the recent move by the International Monetary Fund to give Malawi a nod on the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) and the gesture by the World Bank to commit US$500 million (MK550 billion) towards the Growth Poles initiative, it is clear that as Malawians we can cry all we can partly because we don’t understand the inner thoughts of President Chakwera, but the development partners have spoken; they have all the confidence to invest in the process.