Monday, August 3, 2015

Stop Talking and Just Do: That’s the Best Way, Sir!

Peter Mutharika: What is the best way?
The past week has not been a silly season politics-wise; the usually silent Malawi President, Peter Mutharika, aimed some punches at people criticizing his government. Seemingly unsure of where he gets it wrong, the president asked these critics to tell him the “best way”.

The president, in his characteristic I-know-much-what-can-you-tell-me tone, asked his critics to tell him what exactly is wrong with community colleges, malata and cement programme, industrialization, implementation of public sector reforms and all that jazz.

But what exactly is the “best way”? Is there any ‘best way’ anywhere? It appears not. However, certain ways are arguably more or most reasonable. And it is the reasonableness of the ways that make them best; not something inherent in the ways.

Similarly, in areas of policy implementation as is true in politics generally, the reasonable way which is the best way is a predisposition to do—action, in simple terms. That’s it, action is the best way.

Quite frankly, that the president is visionary on community colleges is well-settled; that his malata and cement programme deserves a pat on his back is widely-acknowledged; that his industrialization initiative is a big plus on his government is without question; and that his drive for public sector reforms is commendable goes without saying. The above, still, as brilliant as they are, matter less to any well-meaning citizen. The heart of it all is that what matters here is not the policies themselves but the action—or implementation if you like—which should, as far closely as possible, follow the road cleared by these grand policies.

Reaching here, the president can perhaps take an honest stock of himself and his government entourage and see whether or not his policies are implemented in the same grand way they were fashioned before asking for answers from his critics about where he goes wrong.

It is hoped that this stock-taking can help him re-gain his touch with the populace. See, how often have cronyism, favoritism, corruption, and inaction been blamed by these critics to be the regrettable dents on these good policies? Many times. What has the president done? Very little. What has changed? Least.

If he could please do justice to the Malawi nation; next time this or that critic says something is wrong with policy A or implementation of policy B: he should listen attentively, gather the courage to accept the free advice, and then take action. It surely helps very little, if at all it does, to blabber squeaks of underappreciation in the name of taking critics to task. The only, yes only, way to take these critics to task is to walk the policy talk and not to wander away from it and still expect smiles from Malawians. 

The agitation for approval, now taking a peal on him, will yield nothing without something; action first and approval will naturally follow. The point being driven home here is that there is every need to stop talking and take action. “Why?”, you may ask. Because the talking was already done, the policy document is the talk—the talking is the policy. So the president can’t keep talking. Now it’s time for action. It’s time for implementation. Or better still, it is time for the policy walk.

Take America for example. America is not great because it is a land of lofty dreamers but because it is a land where dream-implementers live. For the record, Malawi is happy to have a lofty dreamer president. It is noteworthy that Malawi will be happiest to see its president implement the lofty dreams.

For Malawi, the dream is the establishment of community colleges that offer relevant programmes; yes, the dream is malata and cement programme that benefits all Malawians without regard to their political affiliations; the dream is civil servants getting salaries good enough to afford a standard life; the dream is creation of industries that create jobs for all and not for family and friends. And that is the kind of walk Malawi wants the grand policy talk to take. When all that meat is absent from the policies as it is the case now, the policy becomes a skeleton to be used as a ghost for corruption and political appeasement.

Sir, as a matter of being straight here, the thing is, at last, to walk the talk. Not to crawl the talk. Neither is it to talk the talk or talk talk the talk. The point is: walk the policy talk Sir. It is only when you walk (and not to wander away from) the policy talk that the criticisms will die a natural death. Because, as earlier elsewhere pointed out, that’s the best way, Sir.

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