Encapsulated in the Chakwera Super hi5 political campaign blueprint were the inviting words; “Prospering together.”
These, ladies and gentlemen are not just mere words. This was a statement of extreme intent, a holy grail of all the campaign promises and the perfect most quintessence mantra of the Tonse agenda for change.
And if am not mistaken, it was the sole authoritative predicate. In fact it was this alluring assertion of a shared destiny that premised and anchored the whole narrative that our president and the vice president ran on heavily.
“Malawi okomera Tonse” was that one punch line that Tonse painted as a canvas of moral and ethical principle from which a selection of social goals would be drawn as they promised to tackle welfare economics for all.
So why the sudden change of heart?
For example, when the talk about the industry of cannabis, otherwise widely known as Chamba in vernacular, in Malawi became ripe, a lot of Malawians were so excited.
For the first time many envisaged a desirable future. Everyone was excited because whether this was by mere happenstance or not, it lined up well with what was promised; “prospering together!”
Sadly there was a complete departure and a breach of that commitment.
What was rolled out was not only licentious, but it dissipated every shred of that dream of prospering together.
In some unexplained ways our leaders had completely become notorious renegades, treacherously abandoning their own allegiance to the cause that they had vowed to fight for.
The hefty price tags on cannabis license fees and other requirements were immoral and plainly meant to bar common citizens from participating.
Just by the look of things, this government became only interested in giving easy access of our resources and tax breaks to the wealthy investors and those with a fat wallet.
Am not insinuating in any way that this is an industry that could be handled and managed by every jack and Jill in the country. But all I am saying is that Government should at least level the playing field for all.
Although its the first time Malawians are allowed to experiment and explore the market opportunities that cannabis will present, it is important to know that this is still a fast evolving industry that requires a type of smart approach and disciplined commitment with necessary knowledge.
Right now Malawi has four acceptable strains of industrial cannabis and six strains of medicinal cannabis and yet we have no Greenhouses and processing plants.
In other words we send our raw materials out and order them back into the country. By this, we are actually creating jobs in other countries while denying our people the same opportunity.
This is a backward strategy just like we have done with the rubber industry where we export raw materials in excess to RSA at a very cheap price and yet at the same time we import processed rubber at a very high cost from China.
Isn’t this a wasted opportunity for government to start building greenhouses and processing plants in Nkhotakota and other places so that our farmers can buy seeds at a cheaper price?
These plants could easily translate into increased employment rate and fulfill the 1 million job creation strategy. The Tonse administration needs to empower its local citizens to allow for increased jobs and economies of scale within the country.
Without a social capitalistic approach and some rigorous ways to firmly regulate quality, it will be impossible to stay committed to protecting the public health while also taking steps to improve the efficiency of regulatory pathways for the lawful use and marketing of appropriate derived products. We need a full redistributive approach and sound economic justice policies.
Without a social capitalistic approach and some rigorous ways to firmly regulate quality, it will be impossible to stay committed to protecting the public health while also taking steps to improve the efficiency of regulatory pathways for the lawful use and marketing of appropriate derived products.
When the Late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda introduced Tobacco farming for example, he did knowingly that the crop he was introducing was one of the most difficult to produce and maintain, yet he was intentional on certain things and managed to make it the biggest forex earner for the nation.
What we need is a collective mind power to be about something with complete shifts in our perceptions, beliefs and desires for a shared prosperity.
For starters we can begin by emulating what the Late Kamuzu did with the smallholder farmers by promoting an idea of farmers clubs as small cooperatives and giving them adequate training and knowledge plus a loan facility to micro finance them so they’re free to compete and directly become the first in line to benefit.
I strongly suggest that this should be done in a way that is intentional to alleviate inequality and promote social economic justice and our focus should be on how we can harness these prevailing opportunities to create wealth for our people.
We need to foster an enabled environment for all Malawians to easily flourish and fabricate a sustainable and sufficient material foundation for a dignified and productive livelihood.
Instead of imposing these immoral high fees and making it almost impossible for the poor to participate, I suggest that government should consider introducing a progressive system.
Government should allow the tax percentages and licensing fees to increase progressively only as the base income amount increases.
In this way, government would be able to manage and remedy that income gap and inequality while at the same time affirmatively promoting fairness and justice.
All what government would be required to do is to manage risks so there would be no unnecessary interruptions and compliance failures.
By refusing to offer sound solutions that could reverse some of the hardships many Malawians face daily, they have allowed themselves to become complicit in cementing the widening gap between the haves and the have not.
If this Tonse government cannot change the conditions of human frailties and the unrelenting angst that is felt by our people, if Dr Chakwera and Dr Chilima will not champion for the weak amongst us, then I don’t know who will.
My humble plea to our government is that they will help us stop creating a society that seeks to run on a system that is heavily exploitative with such a wide divergence between the rich and the poor.
We need government policies to not only put emphasis on the individuals and maximum profits, but we need to put much emphasis on collective success and equity for all people.
The Tonse type of proclivity and economic predisposition should be the one that focuses on creating road maps to job creation and fairness.
We don’t need our scales to tip off one side just to only favor the powerful and the rich.
It’s not a hidden secret that most of these super wealthy investors will eventually externalize their forex and bank the proceeds outside Malawi.
What we are asking for is that government should remove barriers for ordinary Malawians (middle-and lower-income earners), create a way for many ordinary Malawians to compete effectively against wealthy investors in a manner that is fair and acceptable.
At all levels our economic objectives should be pro-poor with an intentional approach that aims to empower the bottom bracket so that they can directly participate, benefit and drive the economy up with such a robust trickle up phenomenon.
Let’s all remember that it’s those that are on the bottom, the working class and the poor that runs the engines of every working and healthy economy, and we need to reward them fairly by providing a level playing field for local individuals.
Most economists will agree that it’s the poorer that have “a higher “marginal propensity to consume” and they tend to spend more within the economy. This means that when more households are given a chance to thrive or to generate income, the nation collectively prospers.
The open free market ideologies that we are so much trying to obsess ourselves with can only work better in advanced economies not like ours.
We cannot burden ourselves with a policy that places a heavy demand to disproportionately reward those with capital advantage at the expense of the hard working poor Malawians.
This one sided approach that favours foreign investors and the rich is very toxic, and it’s negative spillover will trickle down and cost the marginalized in such an unjustified way.
The cannabis industry will by design, attract big money interest and if we don’t resolve the issues of economic justice first, we risk to create more problems without any counter measures and a proper strategy to control any protracted conflicts.
Don’t bring politics into the cannabis industry, think about the economic justice in it.
For feedback, please email me at [email protected] – Views expressed in this article are those of the author.
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