ATLANTA, US—Pres Joyce Banda, a maverick politician, has been getting red-carpet treatment while visiting the United States.
The person who in April made history by becoming Malawi’s first and Africa’s second female head of state in modern times has so far received two awards, Legend Award for sound leadership from the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award.
Rosa Whitaker, President of the Whitaker Group, presented the Drum Major for Justice Award to Pres Banda in the U.S. capital, Washington, and gave the Malawi leader kudos for her “common sense, sharp, charming, compassion and brilliance.”
Malawi News Agency (Mana), which is travelling with the president, quoted Whitaker saying Banda became Malawi's president unprepared but “as a very great and impressive woman, freedom fighter, brave and determined person” she deserved support now from people in Washington to successfully lead her country.
Pres Banda said Malawians had confidence in her and she didn’t have any intentions of disappointing them.
Speaking at another event, also in Washington, hosted by United States Agency for International Development USAID, Pres Banda called on development partners to support Malawi's efforts to lift its people up.
Banda, who came to power after the death of Pres Bingu wa Mutharika in April, said the country’s economy was on its deathbed yet 60 percent of the Malawi's 13.5 million people live below poverty line.
There was need for a quick intervention to revive the economy, she said and blamed Malawi's dire economic situation on her predecessor’s policies.
“Because of the status quo that was there then, today people who needed change of administration have great expectations for better life yet my government faces a lot of social and economic challenges,” Mana quoted Banda saying.
She told fellow panelists - Pres Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Pres Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo, former President of Ireland Marry Robinson, former Prime Minister of New Zealand now United Nations Programme Administrator Helen Clark – she had assembled “an inclusive cabinet with its members appointed from all political parties in Malawi” to underscore the need to work together to solve the country’s problems.
“We need donor’s huge aid as a supplement to what we have economically for our budget to achieve our desires,” he said. “Believe you me; any decision to disregard donor partners will choke us and in particular the citizenry in Malawi.”
Banda, who has been busy repairing ruptured relations with donors and global lender International Monetary Fund (IMF), pledged to “lead my country in cognizance of the IMF principles and policies, like devaluing the Kwacha currency, a thing we have already effected.
"I have decided to sell our presidential jet to convince Malawians that I am ready to move with them.”
When her predecessor purchased the jet, Malawi’s main bilateral donor Britain protested, saying the decision was bone-headed one given the needs of the country.
Senator Richard Lugur said the United States government recognised the economic challenges many world leaders were facing today, especially in the developing world, and was committed to working with them.Banda’s plea heard: IMF believes Malawi’s on track
The IMF is convinced the Banda administration is making the right moves.
''Firstly, as I met the President (Banda), I found her extremely uplifting...She is a woman of courage, determination; she is changing the perception that the world has about Malawi,'' IMF chief Christine Largarde was quoted saying by Mana in Washington.
''We discussed the support that the IMF can give to the country. And also by way of encouraging other countries which are to support Malawi bring the country forward,'' Largarde told reporters
She said the IMF Board will review Malawi’s concerns in July, five weeks after its officials visited the southern African country. It doesn’t get any better than that time frame, she pointed out.Banda's plea heard: WB to release $150m
Mana reports that the World Bank will release $150 million to needy Malawi.
It quoted Ms Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director of the World Bank (WB) who held discussions with Pres Banda, saying the funds should help “to cushion the shock facing the people of Malawi.”
She said the money will be released “within 100 days” as Banda has “demonstrated good and sound economic management, which has convinced the international community like the World Bank.”
The official went on: ''As a bank we are happy with the reforms that President Banda has in her mind, we feel we should continue helping her to recover the economy.”Banda's plea heard: U.S. to speed up aid
The United States has agreed to speed up development assistance to Malawi.
''We had great conversation with President Joyce Banda about making sure that the USA Government is fully supporting the political, democratic and development reforms she is putting in place in Malawi,’’ USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah was quoted by Mana as telling reporters in Washington.
“We will assist projects on women to be safe especially at the time of delivering,” he said. “And we will support the people of Malawi to achieve their quest to have enough food.”
The development agency runs various programmes in Malawi on health, education, food security, sustainable economic growth, democracy, human rights and governance.
----©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.