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“Am not cheap” Mutharika tells World Bank officials

The World Bank should never expect a wholesale acceptance of their programmes aimed at bailing the country out of the current economic mess as President Bingu wa Mutharika says he is not an ‘idiot’ to do that.

Speaking on Sunday in Zomba at the ground breaking ceremony of the Zomba-Blantyre Road christened John Chilembwe Highway, Mutharika described the Bank’s representatives led by Marcel Giugale as ‘too junior’ to meet him.

“The level [of the mission] is not even that of a minister but a principal secretary. So you want me to meet every Jim and Jack who comes from wherever at the expense of my job? I am not that cheap and I’m not for sale; I am the president,” said Mutharika, adding he could not reduce himself to mere official.

On the bailout, Mutharika said the World Bank and other donors should align their programmes with the country’s, otherwise he would not accept them at all.

“It’s not that I will just accept the programme they make; I don’t do that [and] I’ve never done that before in my life. I will study it and find out if this programme is answering our problem.

“And I want to make this clear: I will be cooperating with them but let us cooperate not on a wise person and an idiot [basis]; no! We’re all wise people,” Mutharika said.

Mutharika’s criticisms come after the World Bank has warned that poverty in Malawi will drastically increase if the system stays adamant on adopting economic formulae currently being proposed.

The bank says its latest proposal on Malawi’s economic problems addresses the question of protection of the most vulnerable and the creation of an environment for a quick economic recovery and the creation of employment.

In a communiqué released immediately after a World Bank team visiting Malawi met a government team, the bank said the package it has proposed was “comprehensive” and addresses the concerns being raised by other quarters.

The team also presented its analysis on the sustainability of the current situation and what could happen if nothing is done quickly.

“Malawi’s problems will not be solved through one isolated action. That is why we are proposing a comprehensive package to help the country regain its macro-balance and rebound to previous growth levels while taking measures to protect the poorest,” said World Bank Africa Region’s Director of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Marcelo Giugale.

The Bank expects that confidence and credit markets should recover along with foreign direct investment and regional trade within a reasonable time of effecting the proposed economic plan.

It proposes that in the medium-term, Malawi’s agenda should include accelerating implementation of its agriculture reform program, export diversification, and critical infrastructure such as power and irrigation.

The Bank has pledged “real time” technical support in monitoring of social and economic impacts and also policy design and implementation besides budget support and convening potential partners.

The World Bank package is focused on regaining macro balance, social impact and mitigation, growth rebound, the medium term agenda for productivity and diversification.

The communiqué from the Bank also emphasized the importance of Malawi engaging other development partners in its recovery package and constructively communicating with all stakeholders.

Besides defending his economic policies, Mutharika also took a swipe at the civil society leaders who he alleged are organising demonstrations and challenged the alleged organisers that should they dare bring people onto the streets, the government would respond by bringing its people as they would also be exercising their right as well.

Tackling the current woes including fuel shortage, the president asked Malawians to be patient as it takes time to see the fruits of interventions.

He said the problem has not spared even oil producing countries, like Nigeria where he had sneaked out to recently and met its President Goodluck Jonathan.

According to Mutharika, the road will be finished within 24 months and would be officially opened in 2014, the year Malawians would be voting in General Elections.

The road would begin from Maselema in Blantyre, passing through Chiradzulu and end in Chinamwali in Zomba. Mutharika indicated that the road would be extended to Liwonde Township in Machinga. The road is constructing using a loan from the African Development Bank.

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