Just a month ago, I had a chance to have coffee several times with Atupele Muluzi, the Minister for Economic Planning and Development, at an up-market hotel in Tokyo, Japan as he and other top government officials were attending the IMF-World Bank Annual Conference.
On those several occasions, we talked about a number things ranging from the economy, politics and even his presidential ambitions – including whether his being a member of the People's Party government would not compromise his chances of competing favourably in May 2014.
The political dynamics of the moment made him to try and convince me that he would still be able to campaign for himself and his party while serving the present government. However, I could still sense that he was at war within himself. Call it being caught between a rock and a hard place.
Politically, Atupele's membership in the Joyce Banda government provided a big advantage to the incumbent as he not only represented a youthful and new generation image of the government but also skewed the UDF-following in favour of the government.
Yes, there are a few youths still remaining in the PP-government cabinet, but Atupele's family connection as well as his age, his education and his public image knitted to perfection that it would be hard to find another youth in today's Malawi politics who would cut a similar figure.
He has also left the PP government together with almost all the UDF members of parliament who were sitting on the government side and supporting government agenda in the house. What with the former DPP MPs who are continuously going back to their party?
Economically, Atupele's departure from the government means less and less people in support of the government's economic agenda, a development that will mount political pressure on the government which is now in an increased position to opt for populist policies at the expenses of sound reforms required for the sustainable development of the country.
I have genuine fears that the JB government's focus will now shift heavily towards its survival post-May 2014 and that efforts to resuscitate the economy will for now take the back seat. Thumbs down to the PP for failing to keep Atupele.
During the official opening of the Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) annual meeting in Mangochi on Thursday last week, the association's patron – renowned local entrepreneur Thom Mpinganjira, commented at length on tourism as a key potential sector that could help the country improve foreign exchange earnings fairly quickly.
He, however, pointed out a few things that need to improve as part of the effort to change the country's tourism attractiveness, one of which is the rehabilitation of Chileka Airport to an acceptable international standard. I cannot agree more.
Mpinganjira put it bluntly, and rightly so, that Malawi should accept that Chileka Airport's terminal is obsolete and not fit for purpose. He said rehabilitation is good as an interim but that the real solution is construction of a new airport terminal.
I have personally passed through Chileka Airport several times but I will let other people's accounts help me illustrate my point.
A week before last, Sunbird Malawi Board Chairman Leonnard Chikadya also went to town on Chileka Airport during the International Monetary Fund- championed Malawi Inclusive Growth Conference and he gave a graphic description of services and facilities at the airport to emphasise its pathetic state;
"When you get to the arrival immigration sections of the airport, it is as if you are still in the 1930s, especially when you see the officers fumbling with the papers. You go to the washrooms, there will be no consumable.After passing through to the immigration counters, you get to the areas where you are supposed to reclaim your luggage and you see a conveyor that should belong to a museum.
After retrieving your luggage, you find yourself putting it on a trolley that actually requires driving lessons on how to push it into the right direction. Then you find a desk of customs officials, with false smiles, who want to open your suitcase because the airport has no exit with a green light designated for travellers who have nothing to declare.
As if the customs check point is not enough, you find another section where security officers want to physically check your suitcase again yet the luggage has already gone through much advanced security systems at international airports abroad.
After the security torture, you walk towards the exit of the terminal and won't find your welcoming party which will be in the open outside the airport after being completely blocked from entering their airport building.
If you have to hire a taxi, you will be lucky to find one with a Certificate of Fitness from the Road Traffic Department, let alone a meter reader to show you how the fare is being charged.
For those departing, there will only be two check-in counters – one for economy and the other for business class passengers. The check in section is too small and overcrowded on busy days, especially when South African Airways and Air Malawi have outbound flights. The room hardly has any ventilation."
My take is that Malawi would only attract tourists with divine intervention with facilities like Chileka Airport which just symbolises the poor state of not just many other related infrastructures in the country but the services offered at places of tourism in the country as well. Thumbs down Malawi