President Peter Mutharika has decided not to renew the contract of Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Governor, Charles Chuka.
He instead appointed Friday, former Director of Economic Planning, Dr Dalitso Kabambe, as new RBM boss.
Meanwhile, opinion is divided as regards the appointment.
While economic experts are confident that the economy will stabilise under Kabambe’s watch, civil society says the appointment raises fresh concerns over presidential powers, including those to hire and fire officers overseeing critical national affairs.
Economist Ben Kalua and Executive Director of the Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) Dalitso Kubalasa both welcomed the appointment of Kabambe, arguing he has the qualifications and experience to handle the demands of the Office of Governor of the RBM.
The experts said Kabambe’s experience, having served in key positions in various ministries, puts him at an advantage to address the challenges facing the economy.
“He was the director of economic planning and development, so he should have the best idea of what is needed to move this economy forward,” Kalua said.
In a separate interview, Kubalasa expressed optimism that Kabambe will harness the economic gains the economy has registered over the past few months.
“He is better placed to hold the position as he has closely monitored issues to do with fiscal and monetary policy. He is a man of integrity and we expect the best from him,” Kubalasa said.
Social commentator Rafiq Hajat said the President was at liberty to renew Chuka’s contract but did not even though he [Chuka] had initiated various economic reforms under his tenure.
He said decisions such as the appointment of governor of the RBM cement running concerns to trim presidential powers as it is not immediately clear why the President chose not to renew Chuka’s contract.
“My concern is the criticality of that office [RBM governor] as it involves national affairs and demands that the person should have impeccable qualifications and should be a person of integrity.
“The incumbent [Charles Chuka] has, in my opinion, been a star performer and as such, I would have thought his contract would be renewed but instead, we are seeing the President making a fresh appointment,” he said.
“We need to seriously review the powers that our Constitution gives to a sitting head of state. One person cannot be given all the power to appoint everyone from High Court judges to Supreme Court judges to governor of the Reserve Bank,” he observed.
But the government’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said Kabambe has worked for the Government of Malawi in various position, including as budget director, and that as a trained economist, he has what it takes to head the Reserve Bank.
A letter of appointment that Malawi News has seen, signed by the Chief Secretary to the Government, Llyod Muhara, said in making the appointment, the President was exercising his powers according to Section 6 of the Reserve Bank of Malawi Act of 2010.
Professionally, Kabambe has worked as an economist for the government for 19 years.
Speaking in an interview yesterday, Kabambe said that he is ready for the task and that he is, “willing to serve Malawians.”
Kabambe said his job will be to ensure that there is a sound macroeconomic environment.
He was optimistic that his academic credentials and experience make him the right candidate for the job.
“I wish to really thank the President for appointing me as the governor of the Reserve Bank. There are 17 million plus Malawians and the President would have appointed anyone. It is a huge honour,” he said.
Kabambe holds PhD and Master’s degrees in Development Economics from Imperial College London and University of London, United Kingdom, which he obtained in 2008 and 2001 respectively.
He also holds a BSc Degree from the University of Malawi obtained in 1998.
Dr. Kabambe also worked as Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation for close to two years.
He is married to Bridget and they have three children.
He replaces Chuka who was appointed on April 24 2012.