Malawi President Joyce Banda has outlined her vision for the country, which she said is to improve the lives of Malawians by saving the troubled economy and creating good paying jobs.
“My vision is a Malawi where men and women live in peace and in harmony as equals enjoying their human rights. My dream is for Malawi to be poverty free, and I intend to eradicate poverty, through economic growth and wealth creation,” said Banda.
In an exclusive interview with VOA, President Banda promised that Malawians would see a sharp improvement in the economy within the next six months because of policies and initiatives her administration has put in place.
Among other initiatives, Banda says that shortly after she became president, she organized a national dialogue on the economy to consider Malawi’s growth and development strategy.
“Malawians must realize and must be satisfied that we are serious with the economic recovery plan that we drew, and that there are signs that we are recovering,” said Banda.
She expressed confidence that policies her administration has implemented, including the Presidential Initiative on Poverty and Hunger Reduction, will address economic challenges Malawians face.
“I went to the World Bank and asked them to provide resources in order for us to implement public works programs, cash transfer programs, school feeding programs, to ensure that we take care of the shock of the devaluation of the Kwacha [local currency], because we knew that the rural masses would go through a hard time because of the [currency] devaluation,” she said.
But some opposition groups have accused Banda of being ineffectual in dealing with the economy. They recently organized a nationwide demonstration to pressure the government to do more to spur economic growth. Organizers said the demonstrators were especially concerned about high inflation and runaway fuel prices.
Government supporters counter that President Banda inherited a bad economy from her predecessor, that international donors were reducing their support and that she should be given more time for her policies to work.
“This was a country that for me was literally bankrupt, an economy that has been destroyed through mismanagement and corruption,” said President Banda.
“Within the first 100 days of my stay in office the situation changed,” she continued. “The letter was received from the IMF, the Kwacha was devalued, [and] the donors were back. Our relationship with our neighbors had improved.”
Banda became president nine months ago following the death of president Bingu Wa Mutharika. Some analysts blame Mutharika’s policies for Malawi’s current economic woes.
Some opposition groups have criticized Banda for not declaring her personal wealth when she became president following the death Mutharika. The groups say such a declaration could have helped Banda’s efforts to root out corruption.
But the president has disagreed saying, she already declared her assets before becoming the vice president as required by the country’s constitution.
“[My lawyers say] that because I am the president of this country, I am going to be victimized if I declare my assets every month or when it suits any groups of people. That is not in the law,” she said.
Critics also say the president has yet to keep her promise to sell the country’s presidential jet. Banda noted that a recent poll showed that over 75 percent of Malawians want the presidential jet to be retained because the country has already paid for it.
Even so, Banda says she will make sure the presidential jet is sold and that a Cabinet committee has been formed to find a buyer.
“I have insisted that since Malawians will not want to sell the plane then I shall never use it. I shall never use it because morally I think it is wrong, therefore the plane must be sold,” she said.
Banda said her administration will continue to work hard to raise the standard of living for Malawians.
“Malawians must look forward toward a better future,” she said.
“I am also concentrating on improving our World Bank ranking as the destination for doing business,” Banda added. “So Malawians should know that once our ranking improves, it will attract investment and when investment comes, we will create jobs. Six months from now, Malawians would realize that we are on a road to a complete [economic] recovery.”
President Banda also said she wants to work with civil society and opposition groups to help improve the lives of Malawians.
“I made a statement for everybody to forgive each other and to demonstrate that I formed an all-inclusive Cabinet so that Malawians can see that I was serious when I [said] I will work with even those that persecuted me,” said Banda.