BLANTYRE, MALAWI - Malawi's President Lazarus Chakwera has announced plans to pull the country out of poverty, which he blamed on past governments.
In his address to parliament Friday, Chakwera dismissed a notion that Malawi is a poor country.
"You may have heard it that Malawi is a poor country, but we must reject this lie," he said. "Surely my country, with $85 million in gold exported to the Middle East every year, is not poor. My country, with a freshwater lake and multiple rivers capable of generating $100 million a year in revenue, is not poor."
Chakwera said the poverty for which Malawi is renowned is man-made.
"Ours is a country stripped of its God-given wealth and potential by syndicates of people in the public sector who exploit decades of bad government policies and practices to enrich at the expense of Malawians. In short, the poverty of our people is man-made, which means it can and must be unmade," he said.
Chakwera announced several reforms in various sectors, including three arms of government: the executive, judiciary and legislature.
"To reform the executive, we have embarked on a full-scale orientation of the public sector to the pillars of my Super Hi5 Agenda: Servant Leadership, Uniting Malawi, Prospering Together, Ending Corruption, and Rule of Law. This will happen across the public sector over the next year," he said.
In the agriculture sector — a lifeline in Malawi's economy — Chakwera announced the start of an "affordable inputs program," in which 4.3 million smallholder farmers will receive subsidized seeds and fertilizers.
He said this will improve tremendously the level of productivity in the sector, which currently contributes 30 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product.
Sheriff Kaisi, a political science lecturer at Blantyre International University, said it's time for Chakwera to walk the talk.
"If he is to live by his words, it means it is now time for work," Kaisi said. "No more promises. Malawians want to see 1 million jobs, want to see universal subsidy of fertilizers, trimming down the cost of passports. Those things, which already promised, and now they just live on those promises."
Betchani Tchereni, an economics lecturer at the University of Malawi, said Chakwera's speech was inspiring.
"Well, the speech is giving some hope in the sense that the president has been able to explain to us why the economy is behaving as it is behaving now, and what are the solutions," he said. "And because there are solutions, one would say that, yes, indeed, I think there is some hope that can come under way."
Eyes now are on Chakwera's national budget, Tchereni said, which the finance minister is expected to deliver during the sitting of parliament that begins Monday.