We are fixing a battered economy: Peter Mutharika, President of Malawi.

Author:Jere, reGina Jane
Position:IN CONVERSATION - Interview
 
FREE EXCERPT

Peter Mutharika (pictured below) was elected as President of Malawi four years ago and inherited a "tattered and bankrupt economy" from his predecessor, Joyce Banda. Since then he has been engaged in repairing the damage. He tells reGina Jane Jere how he has reversed many of the economic woes and is setting his country, which is celebrating 54 years of independence next month, on a path of sustainable growth.

The election of Peter Mutharika as President of Malawi in 2014 was not a quiet affair for a country renowned for its political docility. The argument over the credibility of his presidential candidacy--which some critics saw as a dynastic take-over from his elder brother, President Bingu wa Mutharika, who had died in office two years earlier --still shapes debate in the country and further afield today.

But the fact is that in those elections, he defeated the then caretaker President Joyce Banda --who was mired in a corruption scandal of unprecedented scale--into third place.

It is however, the extent of and the effects of Joyce Bandas so-called cashgate scandal, and how the new Mutharika government has handled and resolved it in the past 4 years, that is defining his rule, as he sets up for a likely second term in office come 2019.

"My government came into power just after the former President's cashgate," he says when I interview him during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London.

"When we came in, there was absolutely no money. The country was literally bankrupt. The deficit the previous government left was as huge as the national budget; the arrears were in billions, both local and international. To top it all, donors who were providing 40% of our budget left us," he says.

Fixing what he calls a 'tattered economy' and winning back donor confidence has been one of Mutharika's priorities, but it has not been easy; it has been compounded further by natural calamities that beset the country as soon as he took office.

"Just after six months in office, we had the worst floods Malawi has ever experienced. A third of the country was completely swept away, and we had to divert the little resources we had to rebuilding the affected regions, and resettling people.

"But as if that was not enough," he reflects, "a year later we had famine--the worst ever in the country's history--and it ran for two consecutive years. We became completely food-insecure, and we had to find ways of feeding over 4.5m people who were food-insecure,"...

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