The most hilarious joke I have heard about the ongoing fuel crisis in Malawi was not the story that the heat from the bright sun on the new Malawi flag has been so intense that it has caused all the fuel to evaporate from the country.
Yes, while I have had a number of good chuckles at the depictions of the long fuel queues by Malawi's ever creative cartoonists, these laughs have been overshadowed by the recent ministerial statement by Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Minister, Goodal Gondwe, on how government proposes to address the crisis. According to the Nation of Friday, November 18th, Gondwe told Parliament that one of the options being pursued by the Malawi government is "discussing with suppliers the possibility of buying the fuel using the local currency, the Kwacha, instead of the US Dollar as is the case now."
For a man that has had an illustrious career in many an international financial institutions, Gondwe's suggestion is so laughable as it amounts to no solution at all. If paying for fuel imports using the Kwacha was ever an option, Malawi would not have had this crippling fuel shortage in the first place.
If I may ask, why would the suppliers accept to be paid in Malawi Kwacha? What would they do with those Kwachas? Already, Malawians are struggling to find basic commodities to buy even when they have pocket-fulls of Kwacha currency.
And talking to Zimbabwean colleagues, this is exactly what happened at the start of their own economic collapse a few years back - people having bucket-loads of a local currency that could not buy them anything. So what fuel supplier in their right mind will accept to be paid in a currency that cannot buy anything? If this is the best solution we can come up with, then we should simply brace of even more difficult times ahead. The government meanwhile should simply admit they have failed to find a solution to this crisis, caused in large part of course because of their own inept policies and gross incompetence.
Mr. Gondwe's proposal for discussion seems to be reflective of a wider approach to decision making in this government - thinking we can solve our problems, most of our own making, by using the old-age Malawi adage that "zonse zimatha nkukambiriana" - everything can be resolved through discussions.
While a lot can be gained through discussions, we have to realize that mere talking without addressing the underlying concerns that led to some of the problematic relationships will not do. Going to the World Bank and the IMF with the sob-story that Malawi is hurting without addressing the concerns that led to the suspension of the Extended Credit Facility, ECF, in the first place is just wishful thinking. Merely meeting donors and asking them to resume aid when we have taken zero steps in addressing the concerns that led to the suspension of aid in the first place reflects a mypoia of the highest order.
Let us act and address the challenges and concerns that got us into the current situation. We can then have something to discuss. Until then, Mr Gondwe and your likes, you are increasingly being revealed to be the jokers that you are.