'I am no idiot!', Mutharika tells donors.

Author:Masina, Lameck
Position:Malawi - Bingu wa Mutharika
 
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An African proverb admonishes that "if your fingers are in somebody's mouth, you don't hit him on the head". But don't tell that to Malawi's president, Bingu wa Mutharika. His country is ever dependent on foreign aid, especially from the West, but he says Western donors can "go to hell" if they want cooperation on "a wise-person-and-an-idiot basis. I will not accept that! We are all wise people." Lameck Masina report.

MALAWI'S PRESIDENT, BINGU WA MUTHARIKA, HAS lost his cool with the pressure which the country's Western donor partners are exerting on his government. The donors, including the IMF and World Bank, are pushing Mutharika to follow "fiscal discipline" which they say will help heal the country's ailing economy.

Malawi is currently Facing a fuel crisis, and a shortage of foreign exchange. This, critics say, largely stems from President Mutharika's refusal to devalue the local currency, the Kwacha, which is among IMF conditionalities for the resumption of Extended Credit Facility (ECF) to Malawi.

The IMF suspended the ECF programme last year because it claimed Malawi had failed to adhere to conditions attached to the Facility. An IMF technical team that visited Malawi last December said in a report issued after their mission that Malawi should devalue its local currency by at least 40 per cent so that the official rate could catch up with the parallel market's.

The country's commercial banks are trading the kwacha at an official rate of MK167 to US$1 while the parallel market is at MK300 to USsi, a development that has brought about an acute shortage of foreign currency, which is negatively affecting business operations in the country.

But President Mutharika has maintained that he will nor bow to the donor pressure, saying the repercussions of such a hefty devaluation would be harsh on ordinary Malawians.

He cites last year's 10% devaluation of the kwacha, which again was forced on him by the donor partners, saying it resulted in a sharp increase of prices of goods and services.

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In a public address at a rally held in early March, Mutharika took a swipe at the IMF's interference in Malawi, and accused the organisation of hindering him from finding a lasting solution to the foreign exchange problem in the country. He said he knew the problems causing the forex shortage more than the IMF would ever know.

"But they [IMF officials] are just arrogant, undermining what a black man can do. They think that because...

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