HIS EXCELLENCY PROFESSOR ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA
26 APRIL 2018
Friends, people of Scotland and Malawi – wherever you are!
I come to celebrate with you the journey of friendship we have walked for one hundred and fifty-nine years. This is a voyage of friendship began when David Livingstone arrived in Nyasaland in 1859.
David Livingstone named one of our cities Blantyre. When we got independence in 1964, we changed the name of the country from Nyasaland to Malawi. We changed all the colonial names of roads, places, towns and everything – but we never changed Blantyre. That tells you how connected we have remained to Scotland.
David Livingstone has a great place in our heart, and a greater place in human history. When God gave the Children of Israel “the Light of the World” that came to Europe, it was Livingstone who carried that Light and brought Christianity to our part of the world.
Since then, Christianity has played a critical role in creating a value system that we share and found our societies.
In fact, I am myself a product of the Church of Scotland that gave me my first education. My father was a teacher and an elder in the mission schools. My mother was one of the women of the guild in the Church of Scotland.
We share a past; and we share values. As we say in the wisdom of my people, those who walk the common path can easily share a destination.
Now, between us, we have founded the Malawi-Scotland Partnership. This partnership is founded on mutual respect, which is rare and precious given the North-South relations in our world order today.
The mutual respect for our cultures is everywhere. I have seen Scottish people dress in Malawian attire here in Scotland. I have seen humility in people like Collin and Allison Cameron, who speak my language and calls themselves Malawians.
I have seen Scottish people celebrate the spirit of Malawian culture. There is no greater humility than to assume another person’s culture out of freewill.
We have seen Scottish people in Malawian villages, living our life to support our people. We have seen them working with our teachers and feeding the Malawian school child. We have seen them working in farming, in water management, in climate change and economic development.
We have seen Scottish professionals train healthcare providers in mental health problems. Where the mentally ill are feared and stigmatized, Scottish professionals have found a cause.
We have seen your surgeons, scholars and civil society organisations doing a great work in Malawi.
We have seen much more than we can tell. I am not surprised that nearly half the population of this country can tell you about a personal friend, or family member, with a connection to Malawi.
This is what it means to have a people-to-people partnership. The Malawi-Scotland Partnership has become one of the strongest North-South relationships in the world. Such relationships rare and precious in a world where, paradoxically, developed countries like exploiting and manipulating poor countries in the name of supporting them.
At the Government to Government level, our bilateral relationship is very encouraging. Scotland has been our voice. You spoke for us when we needed aid resumption. And you speak for us to end the exploitation of double taxation.
You spoke for us when floods swept Malawi; when drought failed our crops; when our people suffered in hunger. Count on us – Malawi will always speak for you on the African table.
Right Honourable Members
Let me now speak about Malawi. Here in the Western world, we may know the Malawi that we read about. We may know the Malawi created by the perceptions of those who speak and write about us!
But the real Malawi out there is a country that is making steady progress in many areas.
Malawi is a country where an African democracy works. It is a country where freedom of speech, freedom of press, and the liberty of conscience thrives. There has never been a single prisoner of conscience in prisoner since I came to lead the country.
We have never been in denial because you don’t solve a problem by denying it. But the challenges of fighting corruption in Malawi are three-fold.
First, there came a point when corruption was becoming a culture, being accepted as the normal way of doing things. I came in at the climax of this growing culture.
This climax which was symbolized by the infamous Cashgate – the worst plunder of any African country known, sanctioned by the highest authorities.
When you fight a culture, it is your own people that you fight. And it takes a process to reverse a culture while our citizens demand conclusive solutions now or never.
The second challenge is that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back. You fight people who have stolen money enough to sponsor a war against you. In our case, the most vicious PR machinery was unleashed to make my Government look like more corrupt than the most corrupt of them all.
The third challenge is politicization of corruption. While Government accepts the presence of the problem, many institutions, including the church, the media and the Opposition are in denial. Some people believe that corruption is for politicians and Government officials.
They believe they are not part of the problem. The Opposition makes it a political agenda for fighting Government. They exaggerate the perception of corruption to make the people believe that they are holier than us. What follows is finger-pointing. In short, politicization of corruption defeats the very collective acceptance needed for a collective fight.
But while some focus on politicizing corruption, we are focusing on fighting corruption.
We are making progress. The World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index has told us that Malawi has improved on the absence of corruption category. We are one of the four impressive performers in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has also reported that Malawi is scoring well on the Control of Corruption.
Malawi is a country where the fight against corruption works. It is a country where a serving cabinet minister can be tried in court without obstruction.
Malawi is a country where economic management works.
Four years ago, Malawi was a broken economy falling apart after the devastation of what we called Cashgate. This was a sanctioned looting of the public treasury – the first of the kind, and the worst plunder of public treasury even known in the history of Africa.
The economy was on the brink of collapsing and the country on the edge of bankruptcy. In fact, we had a deficit that almost equaled our annual national budget.
Four years ago, inflation was at 24 per cent. We have brought inflation down to the single digit. Today, inflation is at 7.8 percent. Four years ago, interest rates were at 25 per cent. Today, interest rates are at 16 per cent.
Four years ago, our foreign currency import cover was below 2 months – the lowest in Malawi’s history. Today, our foreign currency import cover is at 6 months – the highest in our history.
Not long ago, GDP Growth Rate was at 2.4 per cent per year and we have now taken our economic growth to just about 6 per cent per year.
Four years ago, our local currency was volatile and unpredictable. Today, the local currency is stable and predictable.
We have achieved macro-economic stability and the economy is beginning to grow. Contrary to the hyped perception of Malawi, we have proven that it has taken sound economic management to turn around the economy in spite of crises and the absence of donor budgetary support. No other African ever did in three years what Malawi has done.
Right Honourable Members
This is our story. Three years ago, we had a double tragedy of national floods and drought in one year. Our crops failed and there was hunger throughout the country.
Two years ago, we had another drought and crops failed again. There was national hunger.
Throughout this time, Malawi had no budgetary support from any donor. We achieved economic recovery without donor budget support through crises of national disasters.
This story should give you, the Scottish people, and the world, every confidence that Malawi is a country you can trust.
Right Honourable Members
Malawi and Scotland have now signed the Malawi Scotland Global Goals Partnership Agreement.
Together, we are now poised to pursue our goals and conquer our targets within the consensus of the global community.
In Malawi, we are determined to make Malawi a producing and exporting nation. That is our vision. We are determined to move Malawi from aid to trade and achieve economic autonomy.
Therefore, we have lined up a number of programs driving to Malawi to prosperity.
The first project is Greenbelt Initiative. We are diversifying, commercializing and expanding our agriculture productivity. We are set to use irrigation, step up value addition, bring about food security and make agriculture the drive for industrialization.
Our second project is Foreign Direct Investment. We are inviting investors from corners of the world, including Scotland. We want to have a smaller Government, and a bigger private sector that drives the economy and provides jobs for Malawians.
Our third flagship program is Skills Development. We are creating a skilled-labour society because no society develops without a skilled-labour force.
Therefore, we are building community technical colleges across the country is a way of investing in the youth, creating jobs, and creating a skilled labour force for our direct investors.
Our fourth program is infrastructure development. We are building new roads; expanding our airports; reviving and expanding our rail network; taking electricity to the rural communities and taking affordable and fast internet to every community.
Right Honourable Members
We are setting foundations, and indeed, setting the stage for phenomenal economic growth in Malawi. We invite Scotland to continue to be part of Malawi’s transformation. Scotland has been a true and trusted friend to the people of Malawi. We look forward to a deeper friendship.
Let the world learn from our friendship. Time has come for the West to define Africa as a mutual partner. Time has come for the West to accept that with our resources, Africa contributes to Western economies more than the West contributes to Africa.
We both achieve more by working as mutual partners!
Long live our friendship!
May God Bless Malawi and Scotland.
I thank you for your attention.