There is little doubt that never has democracy been so alive and vibrant in Malawi like presently. The country’s president, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, widely considered a Pan-Africanist, has a captivating political journey and a wealth of knowledge and experience in this regard.
Malawi, often described as a donor-dependent nation, poor and plagued by corruption, found itself at a crossroads when, in 2014, it had to choose between going backwards to an era where the entire economy was bankrupted by previous regimes for the benefit of a few, or stick to an economic recovery plan, that could allow the country to ‘stand on its own feet’ once and for all.
It is no secret that Mutharika inherited a completely bankrupt state, owning to the infamous Cash-Gate scandal where graft, corruption and cronyism were the order of the day. Widespread corruption had indeed put Malawi on the brink of collapse, and the nation was on its way to become another typical failed state, as a result of the avalanche of limitless political and financial greed. Re-establishing the moral-fibre of the Malawian governance structures has been central to Mutharika’s four-year presidency, as he was faced with the laborious task of shifting negative perceptions amongst the population and ensuring that the government regains its credibility, legitimacy and -more importantly- the trust of the Malawian people.
But what was even more assiduously demanding for Mutharika was to reclaim a government that was entrenched in moral paucity. Admittedly, the tentacles of corruption had tainted various organs of the state, the media, civil society and even the judiciary. Before Mutharika came into power, civil society organisations were unable to account for 90% of donor aid that they had received in order to alleviate poverty, which resulted in the politicisation of corruption in the country. The Mutharika administration worked tirelessly to turn things around in that respect. Mutharika put stringent measures in place, in order to ensure that the legal apparatus works properly and those responsible for any kind of malfeasance would be held accountable. ‘Integrity units’ were subsequently established and new laws and stipulations were enacted, so as to make it extremely difficult to steal money from the government. Within this operational framework, new law enforcement agencies were created, as well as an anti-corruption unit, which works independently -along with the financial intelligence unit and the Director of public prosecutions. The results speak for themselves.
‘What results’ some spiteful individuals may vociferate. Well, contrary to certain demagogical, malicious comments, Malawi’s economic outlook is actually quite favorable. Economic growth is projected to reach about 5 percent in 2019 supported by a rebound in agriculture and some improvement in electricity generation. Over the medium-term, growth could rise further to 6-7 percent, driven by infrastructure projects—including electricity generation—crop diversification, greater access to finance, and an improved business climate. Inflation is expected to ease to around 8 percent at end-2019 and gradually converge to 5 percent over the medium term.
Additionally, performance under the IMF program has been very satisfactory. Monetary policy continues to focus on maintaining single-digit inflation. The banking system’s resilience is improving as reflected in reduced non-performing loans and increased provisioning. Credit to the private sector has also increased. The newly adopted RBM Act has enhanced the RBM’s autonomy. Moreover, the authorities have an ambitious plan for infrastructure projects that aims to support sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Strengthening public investment management—including through rigorous prioritization of projects and an improved project management framework—as well as oversight and monitoring of state-owned enterprises and other parastatals is the government’s next goal. Don’t take my word for it; take the IMF’s.
More importantly, Malawi proved that it is a genuine democracy and perhaps way more advanced in this aspect than some of its neighbors. Mutharika’s governing philosophy has been guided by his experiential background, transparency and sheer hard work. Indeed, since becoming President, Mutharika has tirelessly sought to tackle corruption, improve governance and ensure regulatory and fiscal compliance.
This presidential ambition and the new ‘can do’ approach that has accompanied it, has had a perceptible impact on how the state functions – including in its interface with domestic and foreign businesses. His passion and zeal to end wasteful government spending, curb corruption and improve public service delivery, has endeared him not just with the low-income Malawians but also many others in the region. Mutharika’s concept framework for constructive engagement, his decisiveness and inclusive mindset have managed to facilitate the emergence of a governing style that leverages diverse strengths, cultivates innovation, and ultimately becomes part of the cultural change that is needed, in order (for a country) to overcome its biggest challenges.
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