About President Chakwera’s first SONA, I expected that he would identify his priorities for the next five years. What I’ve seen in the address is surprisingly just a banal report about everything concerning government. I’m particularly struck by the superficiality of the speech, especially its failure to highlight the areas of focus this year and in the years ahead.
I believe that Malawi has public emergencies that deserve priority for there to be any meaningful change or a dramatic turn of fortune in people’s lives. The speech, to my utter surprise, assumes that there aren’t any such emergencies and that Malawi is in a normal state of existence. It is NOT.
The express rejection of the appalling state of poverty and of the reality of resource constraints in the country sounds naive to me, if not downright insincere. Malawi is and has been poor, and it is incumbent on any government to prioritize the efficient deployment of its meager resources to the reduction of poverty and other priorities.
Because the speech proceeds from denialism about poverty and lack of resources, it presents some of the most extensive public expenditure projects that will stretch the resources to the limit, at the expense of the poor and core priority areas.
There is an unexpected and unjustified promise to build constituency houses for MPs. No one has publicly made such a request and one wonders why such a project found itself into the speech or the government priority list. Of all pressing matters, is this something that Malawi needs — about 200 mansions for MPs? Who’s going to maintain them? Next, will there be houses for councilors? Is one justified in saying that this is another scheme to buy off MPs? With all the good will that the new government enjoys, what’s the point of appeasing MPs?
Even more puzzling is the idea of a new truth and reconciliation commission, 26 years after Malawi transitioned to a democracy from 30 years of MCP despotism. The speech says there will be that commission: and as if that wasn’t enough, there will also the Malawi Peace Commission, and then District Peace Committees (28 of them). To do what? All of this, on top of an entire new Ministry of Unity whose necessity no one understands. All of these new institutions will be a drain of the meager resources of the nation. But at the expense of what?