By Thula Chisamba
Some Malawians are demanding an immediate clarity from government on the US$6.8 billion (about MWK7 trillion) grant which has been pledged by a Belgian’s Bridgin Foundation for infrastructure development in the country.
Malawi’s president, Lazarus Chakwera on Monday, 28 November led his team in signing a grant agreement with the Bridgin foundation which, among others will help the country to construct a US$1billion state of the art teaching hospital in Chileka, Blantyre under Kamuzu University of Health Science ( KUHeS) with its satellites in Mangochi, Lilongwe and Mzuzu; a USD 750 million high tech fertilizer manufacturing plant at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR); a USD 480 million Inkosi Yamakhosi M’mbelwa University in Mzimba.
It will also see the construction of a USD 591million Geology Centre at Mzuzu University; a USD 158 million High -Tech lab at Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), a USD 230 million twin tower at Capital Hill to house government Ministries, Departments and Agencies and a 1000 megawatts power generation plant to the tune of USD 3.315 billion.
Much as the president described the gesture as a manifestation that foreign organisations have trust in his administration, other Malawians welcomed the good will with reservations, fearing that the grant may land their county into regrettable consequences.
The country’s immediate former central bank governor, Dalitso Kabambe who aspires to be the president of the country noted, in his comments on the development that the need for shortcuts to economic recovery by the current government may lead the country to calamities.
He said; “Simple lesson in economics: there is no shortcut to financial and economic stability. You put in the work. You make the sacrifices.
Izi zamadulira mukuchita apazi (with these shortcuts), we will be sending our officers again across the world to chase money swindled from government.”
Kabambe claimed that when he was the central banks govenor he had turned down several similar offers from dubious organisation.
“There are always crooks out there ready to swindle governments. When I was within the system, we were always met by those offers. Promises and cheap lies. The rule of the thumb always remained that if it sounded too good to be true, then it was not true.
A little research on some of the offers always revealed that the offer was a scam. But this government is desperate and in that desperation it has been a victim of cheap scams,” he said.
On his part, renowned economist in the country, Prof. Betchani Tcheleni said people are justified to be questioning a grant that is equivalent to the country’s annual national budget.
He said; “US$6.8bn is a big number, people are justified to be skeptical; the “Its too good to be true” principle at work. Nthawi nkachitsiru, it won’t take long to prove. Assuming its true and not bogus, US$6.8bn is a number to salivate about. Koma ngati zili za bogus izizo anthu inu, aaaaaa!”
A quick perusal of Bridgin foundation website established that the organisation does not publish more information about its operations, citing security reasons.
This has raised scepticism in most Malawians who speculate that the foundation might be run by some crooks who are bent on swindling governments through provision of dubious Grants.
Civil society organisation, Social Action for Development had written the Belgium government, seeking for authenticity of Bridgin foundation which claims to be of Belgian origin. Director for the grouping, Isaac Cheke Ziba, told the local media that their interest was to protect the citizens of Malawi from falling victim to impostors.
Joshua Chisa Mbele of the Citizens against Impunity and Corruption, another civil society organisation in the country had hinted that should the government fail to shed more light on the agreement it signed with Bridgin foundation, his organisation will seek legal action on the matter.
Nevertheless, government spokesperson, Gospel Kazako, posted on his official social media platforms that the grant had proven that patience cooks a stone; citing that Malawians had began witnessing the fruits of the dynamic leadership of the Tonse alliance administration that has been going through a lot of reprimands from the public over corruption and related poor governance.
Malawi is a country in Southern Africa with a population of over 20 million people. According to the United Nations, it is one of the poorest countries in the world with over half of its populace living below the poverty line.