Bravo Mr President

By Linda Kwanjana

President Lazarus Chakwera’s announcement of austerity measures in response to the economic challenges facing Malawi, particularly the significant devaluation of the local currency, reflects a responsible and proactive approach to addressing the nation’s financial woes.

Chakwera’s acknowledgment of the pain felt by Malawians and his commitment to taking difficult but necessary steps to rectify the economic situation demonstrates his leadership qualities and genuine concern for the well-being of the citizens.

One commendable aspect of Chakwera’s strategy is his willingness to lead by example. The decision to cancel all international trips, including his own, and implement a freeze on public-funded international trips for all public officers illustrates a commitment to prudent financial management.

Said Chakwera: “I am here to serve Malawians, and to do so, I am prepared to do things that are painful as long as they are the right things. The most painful thing by far has been the recent devaluation of our currency to correct the false value of the kwacha based on nothing and rebuild the true value of the kwacha based on the production of exports. I know that this decision has caused a lot of pain, and I know that all of us now have to make big adjustments in spending so that we can prioritize those areas that are most productive and stay the course until our economy becomes productive and profitable again.

In making those painful adjustments, I have to lead by example. This is why effective immediately, all my international trips between now and the end of the fiscal year, beginning with my trip to COP28 at the end of this month, are cancelled. By extension, I am putting a freeze on all public-funded international trips for all public officers at all levels, including those in parastatals, until the end of the financial year in March.”

In a time of economic crisis, such actions send a strong message that the government is prioritising fiscal responsibility and making sacrifices at the highest level to alleviate the burden on taxpayers.
The decision to slash fuel allocations for high-ranking government officials, including ministers and directors, by 50 percent is a practical step towards reducing unnecessary expenditure.

This move not only saves taxpayers’ money but also underscores the president’s commitment to ensuring that resources are used judiciously and that public officials are held accountable for their spending.
The Minister of Finance’s announcement that these austerity measures will save K4.2 billion of taxpayers’ money is a promising development. It reflects a clear plan to manage the country’s finances responsibly and work towards economic recovery.

This fiscal responsibility is crucial, especially in the aftermath of a significant currency devaluation, where rebuilding trust in the national currency is paramount.
In stark contrast, the criticism from former President Arthur Peter Mutharika, calling for Chakwera’s resignation, seems misguided and politically motivated. Mutharika’s attempt to compare current commodity prices to his time in office oversimplifies the complex economic challenges faced by Malawi.

You cannot simply compare prices between the two administrations, considering that the Chakwera presidency has faced numerous challenges, including natural disasters like Covid-19, Cholera, the most devastating tropical cyclones, and the exacerbation of the situation due to the war in Eastern Europe.
Economic conditions are subject to numerous external factors and blaming the current administration without considering these factors is not a fair assessment. It is essential to appreciate President Chakwera’s decisive actions and commitment to steering the nation through challenging economic times.

Austerity measures may be painful in the short term, but they are a necessary step towards rebuilding a stable and productive economy. Malawians should support these measures as a collective effort to overcome economic challenges and lay the foundation for sustainable growth in the future.