Saturday, August 10, 2013

Price Reduction and Kwacha Appreciation: Is President Banda Manning Up Or Simply a Victor of Circumstances?

The presidency, whether or not for its prominence, seems to be the public office that receives greatest attention; more so negatively and less so positively. In the history of presidents, President Joyce Banda appears to have had most negative attention of all presidents to have ever ruled Malawi. This has largely been due to her supposed lack of effective compass to safely and smoothly navigate the stormy waters of Malawi politics. 

There has been a good development worth writing home about in recent days—price reduction and Kwacha appreciation. Interestingly, the negative talk about the visionlessness of President Joyce Banda happens not to die despite this good news. This, by itself, should corroborate the statement that president Banda is the underappreciated president in Malawi.

Theories have been put forward explaining the circumstances under which the reduction in prices of certain goods and the appreciation of the Kwacha against major foreign currency find themselves in. There are, however, two competing theories here; that either president Joyce Banda is up to the duties of the presidency or that she is none other than an opportunist of circumstances.

Those of the opportunist-of-circumstances view take the negative public relations position on President Banda positing that Banda and her administration are simply victors of circumstances and not necessarily manning up to the leadership challenges of the presidency.

To these critics, the reduction in prices of goods presumably following the Kwacha appreciation should not be misinterpreted as a show of president Banda’s good leadership, asserting that this is simply a natural progression of economic events in this tobacco season. Furthermore, they clarify that Malawi is an agricultural economy, or loosely a “Tobacco economy”, almost always picking up during the harvest season as dollars trek in.

While it would be absurd to quash these learned arguments completely, it would be equally absurd to take the arguments without a pinch of salt. It is true that the natural elements of Malawi’s economic reality spells it clearly that dollars trek in during harvest season of the year. However, such happening does not and cannot happen in a vacuum; that is, there is need for someone to initiate the same, and the president in this case.

Again, the tobacco dollar does not just come “boom!” and there it is, no; it needs someone to negotiate and re-negotiate the terms and conditions of its sale. The point being driven home here is that there is always someone pulling the strings from the highest echelons of power, silently but strongly.

It here thus seems fair that the attention is given to the other school of thought on the price reduction and Kwacha appreciation—the Banda-manning-up theory. This group of people is essentially made of Joyce Banda sympathizers especially Peoples Party zealots. Whatever their political affiliation, they too have a point as equally compelling as the former.

To these people, the reduction of prices on goods and the appreciation of Kwacha is a truest manifestation of the quality leadership of President Joyce Banda. They further argue that this is the case because president Banda needed to stabilize and acclimatize herself to the presidency. Again, they add that now she is fully in control has started exercising her control and practicing her leadership now that the whole government system dances to her whims.

Whether that Banda and her administration needed time to stabilize or acclimatize is true or not, the fact still remains that she is now in full control and gaining vision, so it appears, every passing day.

It is at this point that it happens to be ever more confusing as to what position one should identify with. To be able to adopt a better position one needs to analyze the present government in the light of the political, social, and economic environment it came to be with special reference to time passed, resources gained and used, and decisions made.

To this author, having analyzed the general environment at the birth of the Joyce Banda government, concludes, as painful as that may be to too far many, that the price reduction of goods and the Kwacha appreciation more likely confirms that president Banda is manning up than that she is only a victor of circumstances. But most certainly both, and the author bets his life here.   

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