The Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) has challenged President Bingu wa Mutharika on his claims that devaluation would lead to increases in prices of commodities, saying Malawians are already paying prices dictated by devalued rates of the kwacha on the black market.
“As a consumer body, we hate devaluation but we hate more when the economy is driven by the exchange rates of the informal market which are difficult to control and monitor,” said Cama Executive Director John Kapito in a statement issued on Saturday.
He warned Malawians that failure by the government to embark on the International Monetary Fund/World Bank programme will bring untold miseries to them as consumers.
Cama has since appealed to consumers in Malawi to stand up and challenge the current poor economic policies and demand for total protection by rising up, speaking out against any abuses by the state and join when called for any mass protests.
“We can only be consumers if we defend our fundamental rights,” said Kapito.
He said what the president and his followers should understand is that the Malawi kwacha is no longer transacted at the bank exchange rates and that the cost of goods and services are pegged to what is available on the parallel market.
He said the kwacha was already devalued on the real market where it was trading at over K280 to the US dollar and that what consumers are paying is already unaffordable because the informal market has been allowed to dictate the exchange rates.
He described as ‘lack of understanding’ by the president and his followers to claim that that the current market prices are subjected by the current bank exchange rates.
He said Cama and other independent stakeholders’ research reveals that the current market prices are based on the exchange rates available on the black market.
“It is unfortunate that the President and his followers have chosen not to believe the realities on the ground which has also demonstrated how distanced the leadership is from its consumers,” said Kapito.
He said as a consumer body, Cama was wondering whether it is lack of understanding or mere political rhetoric on the part of the president and his followers for their failure to know and understand the real situation on the market.
“It must be sheer economic arrogance,” said Kapito.
He said Cama was also deeply concerned with the many threats and continued intimidation on consumers’ rights that do not provide space and platform for them to speak out and be heard on issues that affect their economic and social rights.
“There is continued suppression of our rights by the President and his followers which among others is the right to be heard and holding peaceful demonstrations to express ourselves in manner we might find appropriate and that right is not owned by the President and his followers and it can never be put on sale,” he said.
He explained that consumers’ right to be heard and demonstrate is not in any way directed at President Mutharika as a person.
“It is directed at the state and President. Who happens to be the duty bearer under the Malawi constitution therefore the President must stop personalising his position; it’s an elected position and subjected to checks and balances by the people of Malawi,” said Kapito.
He said it was inconceivable for the state president to engage in such misleading and ineffective political propaganda after having failed the economy, making the IMF and World Bank as scapegoats for the failures of the economy.
“The leadership of this country must accept that economically they have failed to lead this economy out of poverty and they should apologies for that without transferring their failures to innocent people and institutions,” said Kapito.
“The fact that the economy has no foreign exchange, fuel and that prices of goods and services are skyrocketing daily is no fault of the IMF and World Bank. It is the fault of poor economic choices and policies on the part of the Bingu admistration,” said Kapito.