The Genesis of Aid (A Parody)

February 28, 2012 by Ben Ramalingam

On Friday last, Good Friday, 2012 we loaded up our gear including a film crew of students from DIT, 5 bags of cement, GPS and all our various regalia, to travel to a well site using precious  fuel, over a bumpy road only to find that the well that the Chiefs had agreed to dig hadn’t even been touched in the 5 day period.

Now this is the type of failure occurring all over Africa every day. In our case we were dealing with people we didn’t know but some who were referred to us by another NGO. We didn’t do our job properly, because we talked to the Chiefs and men, even though we only do all our arrangements with the women as the prime movers. We slipped up badly. We had a plan to film the well on Friday, make the slab and on the following Friday complete the job. This was our plan, A bad plan. If the community don’t participate, there’s no plan. We know this because we have learned, that if it’s women’s business you talk to them. We know this, but we had a momentary rush of blood to the head. We will never repeat this mistake again. Of course constantly revisiting bad plans happens all the time in Malawi, so the locals are sensitised to this approach!!

If there were people around on our first visit we would have discovered an area polluted by aid. The EU paid for one school block, which is now in a poor state. Another prominent member of the Aid business built another block, by providing all the money. There was no voluntary community  involvement/participation.

There was a sponsorship plan in place for children.  We met them, with their documents showing their name, number and name of sponsor. I’m sure the sponsor got the smiling picture and the letter maybe, but I’m also sure that the heads covered in scabs, the poor clothes, the lack of school fees, or whatever else was promised would disappoint, a little, at least.

As a general rule we don’t work with people who have become beggars as a result of Aid without input.  But strangely this is what we found

I’m sure the proposals called it development aid, with high ratings for aid effectiveness. There would also be these  wonderful reports, of sustainability, strategic planning and whatever the new buzzword might be on the day.

Oh! what did we eventually do, after all the interviews and filming was done? We said goodbye to the kids and let the chiefs know why we were leaving with our cement, never to return.

On our return journey, we met a group of women, the real people of Malawi, explained what had happened, told them how to reach us when they were ready, and had their well dug. We’ll soon get a call, build the well in close proximity and have clean water for 122 poor souls and up to 500 children at the school.

We work, we say, is about Inspiration, Education and Challenge. This is what we mean by challenge.

Malawians, particularly Malawian women are capable of developing themselves if we leave them alone and support them with what they need rather than with what we think they need.

Luckily I came home to find this amazing blog by Ben Ramalingam to whom I am deeply grateful for my restored sanity and a renewed belief in how we approach things

In the beginning, the Donors said, “Let us make development in our image, and in our likeness, so that we may bring about changes in developing countries”. And other Government Departments replied, “Yes, but not too much change, and not all at once, who knows What might Happen.” And the Donors did reflect upon this, and after a time they did say, “Let there be Aid Programmes”.

 

And lo, having completed the appropriate paperwork and then randomly recruited staff members on the basis of spurious social connections, the Aid Workers did create a great many Aid Programmes upon the land, with rather fewer in the sea.

 

Now at first many Aid Programmes were formless and empty, there was darkness over any possible engagement with intended beneficiaries, and attribution of impact was absolutely nowhere to be seen. With naught else to look at, the Donors did peck at the financials like bureaucratic vultures.

 

And the Donors did say, “Let there be light on this programme”, but there was no light, merely quarterly reports cut and pasted from other endeavours. But the Aid Workers saw that the reports were sufficient to get the donors off their backs. They called the reports “evidence-based” and they did construct programme narratives, after a fashion. And there were visits and some more reports.

 

And the Aid Workers said, “Let there be a separation between us and the communities we seek to serve, to keep us even further away from messy reality, lest our donors seek to explore this area further, nobody needs that”. So the separation was made and the people ‘under’ the programmes were divided even further from those people ‘above’ them. And it was so.

 

The Aid Workers called the separation ‘our new decentralised structures’ and occasionally ‘our new national partnership modalities’. And there was more reporting and the first mid-term reviews.

 

And upon reading the reviews, the Donors said, “Let all the programmes under this sky be gathered to one place, and let duplication and waste disappear.” But it was not so. Instead the Aid Workers did gather in the bar and Grumble about it over numerous beers. The next day, the Aid Workers said those programmes whose representatives had gathered in that bar formed ‘a new Coordinated Operational Network System, or CONS’. And the Donors did scratch their heads, and then said, “Well, Okay”.

 

Then the Donors said, “Let the programmes produce results: monitoring systems and  impact-bearing evidence, both qualitative and quantitative, according to their various kinds.” But again, it was not so. The programmes produced reports bearing more narratives and nice photos on the front. But the content was heavily skewed according to pre-defined objectives and indicators that could have been copied off a cereal box.

 

And the Aid Workers saw that it was rather woolly and vague, and were satisfied. And the Donors saw that it was not Actually very good, but would at least keep the Right Wing Press off their backs for a little longer.

 

And the Aid Workers Head Offices said, “Let there be journalists and blogs and tweets to separate the donors – both individual and institutional – even more quickly and deeply from their cash. And let our Woolly Results serve as signs to mark our fundworthiness. And let there be pictures of children, ideally being hugged by tired-looking pretty white girls.”

 

And it was so. Head Office made two great lights—the greater to shine into possible funding  opportunities, and the lesser light to identify photogenic but hungry looking babies. Head Office also invited the stars and celebrities, after their Compassion-Fashion-Kicks. And Head Office saw that it was good.

 

And then one Aid Worker did Stand up and Say, “Let our Programmes be shaped by those we seek to serve, and Let them tell us what is good and right, and let us shine a true light into these programmes of ours, so that a light may then shine forth from them. And let that Light be Truly called ‘Development’.”

 

But the other Aid Workers did say, “Shut up and sit down, What are you playing at, Dost thou wish to get us all into the Deep Excrement?”

 

Thankfully the Donors were too busy creating new Declarations of Aid Effectiveness, within which all new and existing efforts should be fixed, according to their kind, and so did not notice.

 

And so this Aid Worker did leave that place, and became a Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist.

 

The other Aid Workers blessed her departure and said “Come back when our next mid-term review is due, and verily your rates will be good.” And they were.

 

And then finally the Donors, after yet more ambiguous reviews, did say, “Let your programmes prove their sustainability, such that we shall see how they continue after we reduce core funding.” And this Exit Strategy they all did  promise to abide.

 

And so, after more grumbling, questionable reports, and beers, the Aid Workers did leave that place to work in areas which were more aligned with the Donors current priority interests. And so it happened that National Partners were left to wind the programmes down within one year, albeit at a fraction of the original cost and with Minimum Overheads.

 

And then, two more years after that, New Donors and their staff members did arrive, and they did say, “Let there be an Aid Programme Just Here.”

 

And, lo, it was so.

Village Meeting


Village Meeting
Originally uploaded by wellsforzoe

It may look like a visit to a village in the touristic sense. Go there, meet the village and leave, never to be seen again.
But we just don’t go about our business like this.
Here we see part of a Self Help Group before their weekly meeting started. They began their savings scheme in January 2011, saving small amounts. They began lending to each other in March 2011 charging an interest rate of 20%, which goes back in to the kitty. They are involved in small business and at the end of November had a loan book of 1246 Euro. Now these are some of the poorest women in the area, some are widows and few can read and write. Brian, with the purple shirt, an employee of our friends at St John of God Services, is their mentor, educator and advisor, but they do everything else themselves. All this has been achieved by these 18 women with no financial input from outside. They have achieved all by themselves, a lesson to the rest of the World!!. After working successfully in these small groups, the progress to Community needs, forming a cluster representing 10 small groups
At this stage they presented us with proposals for clean water, preschools and adult education. We are now working with the first cluster on the building of 10 preschools which will double for Adult Education. Training has began is some and we are ahead of schedule.
When I say we, I mean that we support the community, but they do all the work and. In the preschools we supply some cement, and the metal for the roof, they do all the work. We also supply training and for caregivers in the preschools and work with the Ministry of Education for training adult education trainers.
This group have 34 wells/pumps and when we came along only one worked.
Later we will bring training in conservation farming and horticulture.
These now successful business women are ready to drive this agenda, having been empowered by their own success. They are not for turning and they will go upwards and onwards.
An amazing success story against all the odds.

Weekly report from the farm

For the past two months, as well as our almost daily skype conversations to mobiles, we get a weekly report from the Alinipher on the farm, Casca from the preschools and Duncan on the pumps. We are constantly amazed at how much is going on and how things have improved and at the quality of the content.

Date :7th October 2011.
Hei John & Mary,
Here is the report for Lusangazi Farm which Alinipha gave me.
* We are transplanting cabbage and boricole.
* We are planting Beetroots direct and peas.
* We are planting coco yams and strawberries.
* We are sowing sunn hemp, Mahogany and Msangu in tubes.
* We are planting sweet corn.
* We are doing heavy watering due to shortage of water but problem solved this week because we received heavy rainfall and water table increased.
* The water level in dams have increased and we have more water in the garden since Thursday this week.
* We are planting Dahlia around orchard and planting Bananas around orchard,we have took this amountn of rainfall to plant these because at first it was too dry.
* A message to Mary is that we have a letter from City Assembly.
* The are saying that the will be a training of the caregives.
* Place is City Assembly.
* They need 6 caregives from our schools*
* I wish all the Best!!!
GOD BLESS YOU ALL
CASCA

Life in Malawi

When the going gets tough, do the tough get going or maybe sometimes get the message, up tent and pegs and get the hell out of Dodge. This was our dilemma on May 2, 2011
We had come to Malawi, for the first time, just six years ago and feel we have made unbelievable progress (for us) with the poorest rural people you are ever likely to see anywhere. Rural poverty is different than the urban variety in that rural people generally survive better: they should be able to feed themselves at least, if they have any tradition of farming, and sell a little to buy necessities, but Aid, bad advice and poor governance have robbed them of their dignity and courage. Many people here, men mainly, have lost the spirit to survive and if there is any hope, it’s with the women.
I mention aid as the first blight, in that people have become dependent and wait for the €70,000 white jeeps to arrive and get them out of another spot, the Government having previously exaggerated the need, wasted much of the money on reports (done by white consultants) and sent what remained with the delivery boys.
In the past six years we have spent our time trying to inspire, educate and challenge villagers to get off their asses and do it for themselves, pushing ahead with communities who have taken the first steps. Our top attention goes to the provision of clean drinking water close to villages. The community (the men) dig the wells sometimes up to eighteen metres deep (the height of a four story apartment block), supply and build the bricks, sand and labour. We supply a simple, very sustainable and repairable pump, which we make in Mzuzu, and the cement.
To be honest most wells are six or seven metres deep and the average cost to us is about €130 per village meaning water for life can cost less than one Euro per person.
Clean water has a phenomenal, life changing impact. Water related illness disappears immediately. Words like diarrhoea, a bigger killer than aids, disappears from the vocabulary. Cholera, an almost instant killer vanishes, and women get back some rudiments of a life. Girls can get to school, bad and all as it might be. Women can grow gardens, often with our help and a horrific life becomes a little more bearable.
All this seems like something we’d want to stay for, and continue, but Malawi has changed in recent times. Suspicion and paranoia about the activities and influence of foreign NGO’s is all around us, and there’s a view abroad that we’re going back to the latter years of the reign of the dictator Kamuzu Banda, who ran a hoard of community spies, and not so nice people, who reported to the powers that be, lots of people were disappeared, some reported to be fed to the crocodiles in the Shire river and any semblence of law evaporated in the hot Malawi sun.
I’m not saying in any way that we have got that far, but a recent edict directed the President’s supporters to deal with dissenters and anyone critical of the current regime.
It’s interesting that today (May 2) the president announced May 14 as a National Holiday to honour the former president of Malawi, Kamuza Banda, and anyone who has read even the most abbreviated history of Malawi, and his illustrious reign, will appreciate what I mean. The comment that Malawi can live in prosperity if it learns from this great son of the land and decide to live by the values he stood for (from a full page Ministry Advert in the Daily Times ) maybe even the slightest bit of misleading. Now it is true that many of the older village men would concur with this but with maybe with just the slightest touch of selective amnesia, rose tinted glasses or even a bit of alzheimers. Maybe it’s more of a reflection on the current state of the country rather than a factual recollection of what was.

I suppose at this time rulers all around the world are looking at North Africa and what may be loosely called people power. Autocratic rulers everywhere are under scrutiny from all angles and must be worried about their collective futures .
If I look at one particular case: the UK, who had to welcome home their High Commissioner from Malawi, having been thrown out because he told it as it is, something that every canine conversation is about, on the streets these days. Like most of the developed world the UK has financial problems, taxes and interest rates will go up, they are spending ship loads of money on humanitarian aid, in places like Malawi and have now the cost of bombers in Libya. If I were a Health worker in Malawi, I would worry about my future, as the UK is the biggest funder of healthcare and medicines. Maybe getting rid of the British High commissioner was a stroke of genius. Being powerful enough to be first country in the commonwealth to ever send home an ambassador (even Mugabe didn’t go that far) has to show that Malawi’s sun has indeed risen.
During the past three weeks, not alone did we have had to visit Emigration and Government Information Services (the stazi) to give an account of our movements, we had Inland Revenue crawl all over us: all this mainly, I feel, at the instigation of a single individual.
There are thousands of foreign NGO’s in Malawi, we are tiny and they’re on our case, so what’s going on? More than vague suggestions are always made of arrest, eternal damnation or expulsion.
Maybe this rant should end with a laugh.
Two weeks ago, one of our employee’s, who looks after 5 rural preschools and visits one each day, was on his bike at about 7.30am and while passing a read block was detained by police. He was charged with speeding and told that they would keep his bike until the fine (€10) was paid. He left his bike, walked 2 miles to the school, 2 miles back and eventually when he confirmed that he had no money, and was walking away, they threw his bike at him.

w4z PHLOGS
Monday 23 May 2011: Duncan, the Mobile Plumber

When we arrived at the factory this morning, after 7.30, Duncan was loaded up and ready to roll, to fit two pumps. One was a broken pump which hadn’t worked for years and the other was on a new well .
Haven’t seen him since, but I’m sure the news is good.
In the wake of ever increasing fuel costs and the lack of fuel for long periods as a result of forex problems, we have decided to keep the show on the road and bought a new bike for our new guy Duncan.
He loves the job and the bike and the whole affair.May 2011

You can laugh (or cry) at the following email

John
.
Here is my report plus the G,P,S details of some pumps that we have installed so far.
We went to Ekwendeni following up those letters you left plus other new wells namely; Makalanje, V H Simon, Halazie, Shonga and Engcongoleni.
On 14 June I went to maintan a pump in Thandazga,
On 15 June I was with steve digging a well at the factory,
Today I went to Chimwemwe Kazando to take the mesurement of the new well, I will go there before Friday to make a cover and show them how to construct the whole well.

PUMP DETAILS

1.Village name;E,E Ngoma
Location;Geisha
No of people;28
GPS: S 11*28.410 E033*59.106 Depth,6.8m

2.Village name;Vwenya Mzumla
Location;Dunduzu
No of people;128
GPS; S11*24.325 E033*57.880 Depth;4.6m

3.Village name;V,H Luguba Mhlanga
Location;Nkholongo
No of pple;196
GPS; S11*22.601 E034*00.765 Depth;3.9m

4.Village name;Kam’khwalala
Location;Chimwemwe Kazando
No of people;357
GPS; S11*28.811 E033*57.445 Depth;3m

When things are going well in Malawi, it’s time to worry. This came from Duncan today: He finishes
John,
The traffic policeman told me that not to carry pipes on my bike any longer failing which I will be arrested.
Duncan Reporting.

If we check with the police there will be no law, statute or mention of such. But because of corruption, stupidity or plain badness, this is their law, one man’s law and unless we pay them off this is THE ONLY LAW.

In one week, this young man (21) has helped 4 villages and gain access to safe, clean drinking water for the first time and some brainless f***** in a uniform has invented a reason to intervene, in the hope of collecting a bribe.
This is everyday life in Malawi and it’s at all levels from the top down.
Millenium Development Goals my ass.

Is it back to bartering

A small rant.

Just back from a trip to Clonmel, on some fascinating Celtic Tiger roads, where I met with a group of grounded Rotarians for an excellently presented, simple lunch, where everyone arrived from work at 1pm and were back by 2.
I met real, positive people who work for the betterment of our world. The whole adventure was a feel good story.
Three years ago they put on a music function in the town, with music from Micheál Ó Suileabhán and family, with the help of others and managed to raise €20,000, which they presented to us today. In the intervening period they have tried everything possible to get matching funds, but such is the amount of Aid arriving in Malawi, Rotary Mzuzu couldn’t find time or place to fit us in. All they had to do was inspect the pump factory, tick a few boxes, and Rotary International would match the amount. However I’ll stick to the positive and say, thank you Rotary Clonmel for the pump factory and now this money will now enable us to give clean drinking water to maybe 25000 people in North Western Mozambique.
I got myself in to rant mode on the drive back while Mary wondered what I was thinking about!!.
More questions than answers!!
Are we on the verge of going back to bartering goods and services, have we lost total confidence in banking , has the idea of big failed, have we lost touch with the real and put faith in derivatives, other obtuse financial instruments, (financial weapons of mass destruction), designed to be as obtuse as possible. Are accountants and bean counters, bankers and three card trick merchants, ruling and ruining our world? Are we to see the end of globalisation? When will we again get to appreciate real business people as distinct from hailing opportunistic chancers?
We have lost all our road signs: the parish priest, the teacher and the bank manager have all lost their place in society, all consigned to the same irrelevant end, but were replaced by so called, self promoted experts, journalists, TV merry go rounds and reality shows all with dubious motives and agendas. Local bank managers were moved into centralised warehouses and credit was controlled by grey, faceless men and women maybe, who obviously counted their bonuses before they were even hatched. Systems replaced real thinking and analysis, and real people got screwed.
There is now, no one to trust. People will present themselves, as economists or even political analysts (two fairly shaky sciences, in themselves, but then are they sciences?) and then they evaporate almost as soon as they appear: when they are found out to be one trick ponies. For years now these people, famous for being famous are experts on all matters, know the price of everything and the value of nothing, are filling the void between the amount of airspace available and the scarcity of bad news. Oh yes, news must be bad news.
Where will our new leaders come from? The churches will have to descend to even lower standing before there is any possibility of a real change. The political class will have to disappear and be replaced by real people of substance, on much lower wages, bankers will have to be terminated and the financial system totally overhauled.
Have the systems within our world just got too big, out of scale with real people, too big for people to understand. Is big the problem and will small have to become the new big.
Why did those who told us they knew better, that size matters, the bigger the better, greed is good, the economies of scale. If something becomes too big to fail, has it just become too big and therefore too big to regulate and control, for the benefit of the many.
How can people with these ideologies ever hope to contend with the poverty of the millions of subsistence people who live from day to day and from one meal to the next? Those who claim to help, collectively the Aid business, are full of these big people running the aid business like other big business organisations. They come from these backgrounds; have plans for big ventures, which they plan with the bean counters far away from the people they are supposed to serve, hardly serve, maybe dominate and their issues. Africa has had 50 years of big solutions at a big cost and most of which have become big white elephants.

Is it now time for small solutions everywhere? Small banks, small car companies, small, small, small. Will tiny is tremendous ever become a catchphrase or even small is beautiful. Will we ever hear of trickle up or that greed is shite ?.

Enron was big, it had Arthur Anderson, very big, counting its beans and it failed mega big.
Chrysler and GM have had a serious weight reduction and Ford and now in love with small cars!.
Lehman, WorldCom and Bank of Scotland have disappeared like the great Roman Empire, and now the sun regularly sets on much of the once magnificent British Empire.

Who knows how the future will go, but for us, heading off to Malawi for another two months will take us away from the masses of whinging, media malcontents where our spirits will be lifted by some of the most amazing and yet poorest women in the world, living from hand to mouth, who we will enable to access pure, clean drinking water for life, for 1 euro each.
Finally a thought for our young people:
There is a wonderful other world out there somewhere.
Emigration may not be as bad as it first appears.

How do kids in Malawi ever survive!!!

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL MY FRIENDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s…
Sent to me by a friend

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses containing asbestos..

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.
Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.
Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Nandos.
Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn’t open on the weekends, somehow we didn’t starve to death!
We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner store and buy Toffees, Gobstoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with.
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren’t overweight because……
WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY,
no video/dvd films,
no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms………WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no
Lawsuits because these were accidents.
Only girls had pierced ears!
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time…
We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays,
We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!
Mum didn’t have to go to work to help dad make ends meet!
FOOTBALL, RUGBY and CRICKET had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on
MERIT
Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and bully’s always ruled the playground at school.
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.
They actually sided with the law!
Our parents didn’t invent stupid names for their kids like ‘Kiora’ and ‘Blade’ and ‘Ridge’ and ‘Vanilla’
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO
DEAL WITH IT ALL!
And YOU are one of them!
CONGRATULATIONS!
You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.
And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.

Malawi begs Mozambique to lend it fuel after being depleted of forex

By Nyasa Times
Since August or so, the Malawi Government closed down all its forex exchanges in an effort to prevent indepent traders accessing hard currencies. It looked to me like an effort to prop up the value of the Malawi Kwacha as all neighbouring currencies were falling in line with the US Dollar. It also looked like tobacco sellers were failing to repatriate their dollars (tobacco priced in dollars). Were they waiting for a better rate?
Just before I left on Tuesday the TNM mobile phone people announced that the lack of forex was affecting expansion and for some time there was talk of fuel shortages. Earlier we were seriously delayed for metal roofing as a result of forex shortage. So the following news does not surprise me.
The Malawi Government has been pressing the Mozambique Government in a bid to borrow fuel as Malawi has run out of foreign exchange, it has been learnt.
Malawi is facing a serious fuel shortage following the scarcity of foreign exchange. Fernando Couto, Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Development Corridor (CDN), which runs the Nacala port and rail system, says that Malawi asked Mozambique to borrow fuel.
“The Malawians have even asked us to lend them fuel”, Couto revealed, denying claims by Malawi authorities that the current shortage of fuel is due to congestion at the Mozambican ports of Nacala and Beira.
Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) governor Perks Ligoya told a joint news conference with IMF in Lilongwe on Wednesday that, through government, there would be some adjustments in the local currency against other currencies to alleviate the forex problem.
“The movement of the exchange rate will be fixed with the flexibility within the band which would be put in place by the central bank like between MK135 to MK147 per US Dollar,” he said.
He therefore warned unscrupulous dealers of forex that they would be brought to book to face the law which attracts over three years in imprisonment with hard labour if found illegally dealing in forex.

Reasons for Malawi’s forex crunch – Bingu to blame
By Nyasa Times
Published: November 11, 2009
The problems that Malawi is facing ranging from fuel shortages, the forex crunch, power blackouts and water scarcity are attributable to the administration of Bingu wa Mutharika for his extravagant use of forex.
Nyasa Times has learned that Malawi’s forex problems have come about because the Government of Malawi, in June 2007 through the Reserve Bank of Malawi, lent the Zimbabwe Government about USD100 million.
The money was meant for the Zimbabwe Government to buy maize in Malawi, according to information on page 62 of the account for Reserve Bank of Malawi for the year ending 31 December, 2008.
The loan, guaranteed by the Malawi government on the basis of a personal understanding between President Mutharika and his close political pal President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, is supposed to be repaid by the 31st. of December, 2009. It is yet to be seen whether the money will indeed be repaid.
In addition, media reports indicate that the Mutharika Government has bought a presidential jet for about US$15.9million, according to The Sunday Times, a newspaper owned and run by Blantyre Newspapers Limited of Finance Minister Ken Kandodo.
However, the Mutharika Government has not been fully forthcoming on the transaction involving the jet, bought from Aero Toy Store in the United States of America. Specifically, the government is being very secretive regarding the vote used to purchase the plane.
The Mutharika government also depleted forex following the blowing of £3million on a fleet of 22 Mercedes Benz cars from Britain for the cabinet. According to The Sun newspaper of Britain, London-based Crown Agents Bank Ltd. is said to have brokered the deal.
The Sun quotes a Malawian political source as saying: “If you guys in Britain think you’ve got it bad with your MPs’ noses in the trough, check out our lot. Thousands are starving but our government just wants to drive around in style.”
Moreover, Mutharika has been the subject of criticism on extravagant expenditure, drawing the ire of the opposition when his government purchases a fleet of top-of-the-range Hummer vehicles for his motorcade. In the same splurge, he also purchased buses to run his campaign, using one of them during the campaign in which bus he was the only passenger.
Said opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John Tembo, “Malawi cannot afford to buy such expensive and luxurious Hummers, coaches and buses and roll them on a presidential convoy without passengers.”
Fuel especially diesel and paraffin have been in short supply on the Malawi market for the past few weeks, a development that reached crisis levels last week.
Private owned Capital Radio reported that people in some parts of the southern region, as far away as Balaka, Zomba and Ntcheu districts have been trekking down to Blantyre to purchase diesel in bulk.
Motorists are reportedly continuing to abandon their cars at filling stations in hopes that they should remain in their position in line to purchase fuel once it is delivered at the stations.
To mislead the public, the Mutharika government has been blaming the shortage of fuel on congestion at Nacala and Beira ports in Mozambique, claims which have been rebutted by the Mozambique authorities as blatant lies.
The Mutharika Government has also been falsely blaming forex bureaux for the shortage of forex in Malawi, and traders for externalizing foreign exchange. However, all this has been simply in an attempt to divert attention from the real cause of the forex shortage: the government’s own extravagance, and its refusal to own up to this wastefulness.