Introducing 'Mr President' a new column

Kingsley Jassi

Receive my New Year greetings Mr President,  as I introduce this column that aims to give feedback on various issues, touching on our development endeavour.

Getting to the substantive matter, we are now a week into the new decade. It is wise, though, to look back to the last decade and see how much ground we covered before making any 2030 wishes.

Let me highlight some quick figures that manifest our performance between 2010 and 2020. In the 10 year period, we have seen the economy dismally expanding from $6.96 billion to $7 billion. I would not call that growth, that’s stagnation. 

Poverty rate dropped from 71 percent to 51 percent while exports dropped from US$1.2 billion in 2010 to US$1.1 billion in 2018.

Mr President, I guess you are pleased with the significant drop of poverty rate during the decade but just to contextualise this achievement, it is my view that credit should go to donors for doing much more in poverty alleviating activities.

Remember, this country has over 700 local and international NGOs.  A 2018 report by the NGO Board which captures financial records of just 250 organisations estimates US$1.2 billion aid inflow that go into various poverty alleviating activities.

Mr President, you should be worried with trade figures and GDP growth margin - they do not look inspiring. This country is almost stuck in the dump of economic inferiority and something drastic needs to be done.

The lack of growth is vividly reflected in the revenue figures. In 2010, government revenue was US$1.33 billion. If you look at the actual revenue in the 2018/2019 national budget, it is $1.35 billion and that should be a cause for serious concern.

How can the country fail to increase revenue over a period of a whole decade?

Mr President, this is more on you than your predecessors - Joyce Banda and your late brother, Bingu wa Mutharika. In this decade, you have been the President for six years, your contribution on growth or stagnation should be significant here. I wish I got your explanation on this.

I hope you will not bring up climate change as an excuse, the way you begged donors at the recent COP25 in Spain to increase financial aid in the wake of global warming effects. Climate change is a challenge we need to surmount through innovative ideas.

We are in it, we have to live with it and find solutions amid unexploited potential the country has that awaits some growth oriented policies.

We have stagnated due to lack of solutions to our problems and wealth creation, leading us to over-dependence on donors. If the amount of money that comes from donors to finance development was locally generated, it could mean some higher level of growth.

We have resources to generate money from and that include mineral resources on demand now like rare earths, niobium, gemstones, graphite and more. We have large expanse of unused or underutilised land in this country and we have more than enough water, other countries are making use of such resources and achieving higher and sustained growth rates. 

How much is the country investing in these resources to exploit for wealth creation? Of course, I see foreign mining companies at various stages of developing the mines and at their own pace, but cant we, as Malawians, invest in these areas and limit participation of the foreign companies to maximise our benefits?

If the challenge ahead in this new decade is to create wealth, our approach to development has to change. We have nursed poverty for too long than creating wealth that is needed to get rid of this poverty.

Let me finish by putting it to you that the outlook shows that by 2030 Malawi will still be one of the poorest countries in the world.

Check these figures: at the targeted medium term annual growth rate of 7 percent, the country’s GDP will be around US$14 billion in 2030. With population projection for 2030 at around 30 million, the country’s GNI per capita will be US$420.

This is a poverty figure which is way below the $1 025 GNI per capita threshold to be in the class of middle income countries. In the wake of less than 6 percent growth rate, this country is destined for poverty in 2030. 

Note: The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of