Monday, April 23, 2007

Malawi musings

Malawi is much in the news . Not for any particular reason other than music icon Madonna is visiting and being rumoured to be planning another adoption of another Malawian youngster . Malawi's economy is said to be 1% of Scotland's - about half the size of Falkirk's .The country's population is 12.6 million people , one million of whom are orphans . More than half the population lives below the poverty line . Malawi is ranked as the 10th poorest country in the world by the United Nations . Life expectancy in Malawi is now as low as 36.5 years, five years lower than it was 50 years ago.

The Herald reports how business is sponsoring aspiring capitalists to learn their trade in Scotland . A small number of students have been brought to Scotland as part of a vanguard of gifted entrepreneurs who it is hoped will provide expertise, enthusiasm and business acumen to transform the economic fortunes of Malawi . They are spending 18 hours a week learning customer care skills, cooking and working as waiters at Brel and Ad Lib, both part of the Baby Grand Group in Glasgow. They will also be enrolled on four-year tourism undergraduate degrees at Glasgow Caledonian University. All very noble .

Yet activist George Monbiot writes of how international capitialism have failed to provide the necessary foreign aid and have imposed spending restrictions upon on the bill for public-sector pay in Malawi that ensure that even basic schooling cannot be improved . In Malawi the IMF sets the ceiling for public-sector wages directly . The pupil to teacher ratio in Malawi is 72:1 . The failure rate to complete primary education in Malawi is 70% .
In Malawi, the goods required for the most basic level of subsistence cost $107 a month. A trained teacher receives $55. ActionAid argues that Malawi has now achieved sufficient stability to start raising teachers’ pay. But in no case did the IMF consult either the public or the state’s own ministry of education before laying down the law. The amount of money a teacher in rural Malawi is paid is decided by the men in London and Washington.

Good deeds like Madonna airlifting some pitiful child out of deprivation , or philanthropic gestures from Scottish businessmen of assisting Malawi's budding capitalist class may hit the headlines . But it is who controls the economy and pulls the financial strings that decides the future of all Malawians and for the moment thats the IMF .

Madonna danced with Malawian children when she toured the $120,000 facility that is home to 4,000 orphans and which she helped to fund and during a visit to an orphanage urged them to "help themselves" instead of relying on her.

Wise words because the only solution to the poverty will be when the poor do join together and do begin to "help themselves" - by seeking the common ownershiop and control of the means of production and distribution - the establishment of Socialism .

No comments: