I was interested in reading an article in the Business Times supplement of The Daily Times, dated Wednesday May 30 2018, under the heading ‘Analysists tear budget apart’.
I have not had the opportunity to read the budget statement itself. The best I can do is to comment on the views of Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) panelists.
Malawi is supposed to be a development-focused State. A budget that promotes the propensity to consume rather than to invest is definitely myopic. Such a budget may alleviate poverty but not abolish it. Surely, such an approach will never wean Malawi off its no-enviable status as one of the world’s poorest countries.
The remarks made by Chancellor Kaferapanjira, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive Officer, as to the young people’s objectives of going to university were to the point. The remarks deserve attention from those whose primary responsibility is to promote the welfare of young ones. Most young people in both developing countries such as Malawi and developed countries study for degrees with the intention of getting suitable jobs thereafter. Those who voluntarily go into business after graduating have more than average inclination for entrepreneurship and they are the ones who are likely to succeed.
Let us face the facts. Not everyone can succeed in business. Most of those who venture into business quit after a few years. Studies in developed countries such as Britain have found that out of 10 small businesses started in year one, only three are found thriving in year five while the rest disappear.
Those in authority should not dodge the responsibility of job creation by continuously telling the youth that they can go into business instead of looking for jobs. While in paid employment, people work according scheduled hours, maybe eight hours a day and five or six days a week.
In business, the minimum for the successful business person is 12 hours a day, seven days a week. A budding business person rarely goes on vacation. Self-employment is more demanding than employment under someone else, especially in government departments.
I recall with no stalgia the practice of the British in their colonial administration. Whenever there was a special problem, they would appoint a commission of inquiry to study and submit reports. Members of such a commission would usually be experts, with experience elsewhere, who would be detached while examining the problem. They would make recommendations which the government would study. Usually, the government would accept only some of the recommendations but the commission’s findings would entourage clear thinking on the part of the bureaucrats.
The problem of obtaining a business licence due to corrupt bureaucrats deserves investigating but also worth investigating are the multiple problems faced by small business people. Among these I would include inflated charges for certain fixed services or facilities.
I have previously asked whether we have an organisation in Malawi performing the services of Americas Small Business Administration. I have also suggested two further institutions for the better management of the economy.
One of these suggestions is that the Ministry of Economic Affairs should have overall supervision and direction of matters classified as economic. There was such a body in Malawi in the 1960s. It did not last for reasons which no longer need apply. Such a ministry would have a special relationship with the Planning and Development Commission.
The other institution I have suggested is the Council of Economic Advisers such as exists in the United States and most countries.
Bureaucrats prefer to concentrate on and master routine duties and obtain promotion. Politicians tend to give priority to the immediate need of the people and win elections. Both groups are short-termists. They give short shrift to projects with gestation periods of 20 or 30 years though they are the ones which could transform an economy.
Members of the Council of Economic Advisers would be recruited from academic and private sectors, with civil servants providing secretarial services.
They would work on part-time basis and express views on budgets while they are still in draft. How much good is there commenting on a budget which has already been passed?