Many people are longing for a day when the current economic woes will come to an end. This explains why people from all walks of life accepted and embraced the austerity measures introduced by the administration of President Joyce Banda soon after taking over the mantle of power in April and the subsequent passing of the 2012-13 austerity budget.
The reason Malawians threw their weight behind the austerity measures is because everyone who is affected by the prevailing economic challenges in one way or another longed for economic change. The implementation of the austerity measures which initially were applauded by many people is now receiving mixed reactions. Some of the people who were handclapping and ululating at the economic reforms are feeling short-changed and have become vocal critics.
The roots of the change of heart and the emergence of the criticism are well-known. Top government officials and ruling party politicians are singing songs of economic reforms when in reality they are doing the opposite. Instead of suffering with Malawians, those in power are growing arrogant and defiant by each day while wallowing in extravagance and financial wastefulness.
Besides mere criticisms, threats of mass demonstrations have now surfaced and seem to be real. The message from those threatening to demonstrate is the same message which everyone is singing in their choruses: Government officials should stop being extravagant.
The latest to make the same call are economics expert Matthews Chikaonda and IMF chief Christine Largade. Speaking when IMF top officials interacted with civil society and economic experts, the two emphasised that implementation of economic reforms require intense effort, which will include, among other things, the effort to practise strict economy and combat waste.
Let's face the reality. Some of the criticisms are not out of order. The president's globetrotting and weekly village errands with her bloated entourages as if she is a commissioner for disaster preparedness cannot be said to be a practice of strict economic reform. It is nothing but cheap political campaign which is fuelling wastefulness and extravagance.
Concerns raised by Malawians and re-echoed by Chikaonda and Lagarde on the need to tame extravagance deserve to be addressed in an intelligent and respectful manner by those running government today. Arrogant responses to such calls will continue to fuel people's discontent and anger towards those in power.
Our politicians should know that in modern Malawi, displaying political desperation by distributing maize flour packs is not a desirable strategy at the time when everyone is pressing for implementation of disciplined public expenditure.
Running around trying to impress people with handouts with the hidden mission of meeting election agendas is not being tactical. Politicians should stop cheating themselves that cheap political tactics of yesteryears are still valid today. They should remember that bad economics makes bad politics.