In retaliation, the British Government has asked Malawi's Acting High Commissioner in Britain, Flossie Gomile Chidyaonga and her dependents to leave.
I knew this news was the beginning of worse things to come and all Malawians are really scared for the country: some rumours have it that Britain will stop all aid to Malawi within the next six months. The only people that stand to lose out are the innocent poor. So that you can grasp how desperate the situation is, below are some of Malawi's development stats:
- Over 40% of Malawi's budget comes from foreign donors; of this, British aid accounts for 52%
- Malawi's total 2010/11 Government budget amounted to MWK 297bn or about USD 2bn. Sounds like a big number but with 13-15 million people in the country that amounts to just over $150 per head per year before deductions for government salaries, corruption and any wastage
- Depending on which source you read, 50-75% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day
- We used to be one of the 10 poorest countries in the World by PPP GDP per Capita (see below graph) but current IMF and World Bank data has us down as one of the poorest 4 ($925); only Liberia ($396), the DRC ($328) and Burundi ($410) are worse
- The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is approx. 12% (it used to be ~15%) - 250 people are infected with the disease daily and an estimated three-quarters of hospital beds are taken up by HIV/AIDS patients
In his second term, even his supporters have disputed many of his decisions: he purchased a $13.3m jet (supposedly a Government asset) which itself led to a reduction in aid from Britain and other countries (see below graph), the ensuing lack of forex has led to severe fuel shortages, press freedom has been curtailed, he spent $2 - 4m in 2010 on wedding celebrations for his second marriage (the first wife died of cancer in May 2007), he spent money that the country could ill afford on changing the national flag, despite national protest. With another three years left to his term, I wonder what else we can expect.
Bingu has bitten the hand that feeds us but I hope that Britain can see beyond the despot's actions to the needs of the destitute people that he is supposed to represent.
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