Malawians need to change mindset or continue languishing in poverty 

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    Malawians in public work programme upgrading a road

    One thing that makes me feel proud that I am a Malawian is the fact that despite our political differences, cultural and ethnic diversity, we have never experienced a civil war.

    Malawians succeeded in forging a nation whose people have lived and continue to live, in peace and harmony in every corner of the country. This by all means, is not a mini achievement. We, Malawians, need to realize that this is not only a strength, but also an opportunity. There are countries on our continent that can only dream about what we have attained, and collectively sustained throughout the years. However, in spite of such strength, our tragedy has been our inability to take advantage of this opportunity to transform ourselves into a prosperous nation. Malawi became a Republic in 1966; and in all these decades, we have experienced, enjoyed and lived in a peaceful environment. What this means is that we have had completely no deterrent to creating innovative ways to improve the socioeconomic terrain of our nation. It is a shame, however that we have for decades been at peace, endowed with arable farming land, plentiful fresh water, and yet we have perpetually grappled with hunger, starvation, and poverty. Our political leaders claim every day that we are making progress, and yet over seventy percent of the Malawi people live on less than a dollar a day. The majority of the people cannot access good medical services. Malawi’s graduates eternally loaf in the streets hunting for job opportunities, that no one is creating. Corruption is still rampant. Education standards have continued to deteriorate. The gap between the rich and the poor, has continued to grow. A litany of the aforementioned issues, will tempt one to think that Malawi is probably one of those war-torn countries in Africa, assuming one is reading about it for the first time. Together, all of these challenges are indicative of an extremely vulnerable country that is brought to its knees by extreme poverty, exacerbated by a prolonged civil war. Malawi has never experienced civil disruption, since its independence from British colonial rule. What then, is causing these astounding conditions to abound? Why are the Malawian people unable to make progress in combating abject poverty? Why are we one of the poorest countries in the world? Why are we in the same bracket with countries that all their people have known since independence, is civil war? There are definitely numerous factors contributing to the current state of our nation; however, it is imperative to note that central to the perpetuation of poverty in our country is Government. We have habits in Malawi that are so detrimental to progress. We are a country with great development policies, and yet with little, or no political will at all to implement the policies. We elect unqualified people to be our leaders, and yet we are surprised when they miserably fail to deliver. We underfund the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), and yet we expect corrupt practices to decline. At the beginning of every fiscal year, the Finance Minister annually walks majestically into the Parliament Chambers, and presents a budget with over 70% of its budgetary lines just for consumption. These are budgets whose major objective is to rapidly deplete hard-earned forex through procurement of commodities and raw materials from outside the country. As if that is not enough, when budget implementation begins, most of the money is lost on questionable deals and activities, performed in collaboration with unscrupulous contractors. These contractors are largely ruling elite sympathizers and friends; and yet no one asks anything when a subsequent budget session convenes. Then shamelessly, politicians make rounds with the rhetoric of turning the country from a predominantly consuming to a producing hub in the Sub-Saharan region. That is just a bunch of malarkey. How can we produce goods and services when we have refused to invest? We need a radical shift of our thought process, habits, and altitudes. We cannot continue to depend on politically-driven subsidies anymore. Countries that have made significant economic strides have had full and complete engagement of the grassroots. We need to take matters into our own hands from the grassroots up. It is the common people who must strive for a better life by engaging in individual income-generating initiatives, if we are to create a prosperous nation. We need to begin to believe that each household is primarily responsible for its own existence, and survival. For instance, people should not have children if they cannot manage to take care of them. If we all can have the number of children proportional to our ability and income, there is the high probability that those children will get adequate support in their psychosocial development, and will grow into not only productive citizens, but responsible people too. The time of depending on aunties and uncles or parents to raise them for us is over. The concept of the extended families creates nothing but laziness and irresponsibility amongst family members. Relatives should be encouraged at all cost to be independent and learn to take responsibility for their own choices, and actions. Handouts are unsustainable, they stifle creativity and the spirit of hard work. It is therefore not only plausible but reasonable too to eliminate them from our midst. Let Malawi set the priorities, our priorities right. The fuel of our economic growth is agricultural production, it goes without saying that we need serious investment in agriculture. It is a complete mockery to conventional wisdom that we continue to depend on rain-fed agriculture, when we have fresh water all year round, flowing from Chitipa district to Nsanje district. It’s like we leave the growth of our economy to chance. Furthermore, there is an urgent need for the diversification of the agricultural sector, we cannot continue to heavily depend on the unsustainable promotion of two crops: maize and tobacco. It is madness how we keep producing tobacco in large quantities, when the product faces stagnant international demand. It dies not require a genius to see that we are barking up the wrong tree. If Malawi does not change its direction sooner, possibly 53 years from now we may still be confronted with the same questions we are asking today. :

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