Speeches & Transcripts

Honorable Goodall Gondwe’s Speech at the World Bank –Malawi 50th Anniversary

December 9, 2015

Hon. Goodall Gondwe, Malawi Minister of Finance Commemorating 50 Years of Partnership Between Malawi and the World Bank Lilongwe, Malawi


It’s quite intimidating up here.

And certainly the speech that we’ve just heard is disarming because, the question will always be where did we go wrong?

There have been a lot of good thoughts, encouragements like we’ve heard from the World Bank. And those efforts of the World Bank, were not only enjoyed by us, but were enjoyed by other countries. Some countries have done better than we have done. And, what you really have been saying is that we could have done better.

And the question that we have to answer, and, every one of us particularly in the leadership is; where did we go wrong and how can we make it right.

I was sitting with two or three young men upstairs, one of them was a poet and I was telling him that, I have been to school of course, and at school we were taught poetry and  well I, to have been proficient in poetry, the  theme of my  talk tonight in poetry would have been; I was there.

I was there when; the World Bank came in this country. I was there when, our first minister of Finance in this country, Honourable John Tembo sat with the highest officials of the World Bank negotiating our membership. I was there when, he and some officials were negotiating the first program-project in this country and that was the road.  I have to tell you that I was not there when an understanding that they were going to help us build this road, tarmac this road from Zomba to Lilongwe. I just woke up one morning to hear that  the Ngwazi, the first President of this country was going to open this road. Those days you did not announce what you were going to do, you did it and the road was there. 

And that road was financed by the World Bank. The first road after a long, long time. The first tarmac road in this country was done by the Colonial powers and that was Blantyre - Thyolo. And the second one was Blantyre, Zomba. Then after a very long long long time when we became independent was this road that I have just referred to. And I would like therefore to  agree with the speaker that has just spoken that, right from the beginning, because this was just about two years after independence. Right from the beginning the World Bank has been with us, has walked with us, has funded a lot of projects, a lot of changes that we see or that we see, those of you who are as old as I am, you will see that this country regardless of what we say about   the fact that we haven’t done much but, there has been a tremendous change since 1964 to now. And most of these changes have been influenced by the bank, not only by funding but in ideas as well.

I remember and I would have to say I was there, at the first annual meeting of the World Bank in 1966, that Malawi attended. There, our leader was again Mr John Tembo. And I was a young man carrying his bags, there, that time. Not very much younger but never the less an assistant, never the less. Mr Tembo at that time I think was in his 30’s. So a minister the age of I think 34 if I recall very well. 32 or 34. And in ’66 I think he was quite young. I could not quite understand the language that was spoken at that time between him and the president of the World Bank.

I think he was a Senior Vice President. They must have been talking at that time, the advantages of the World Bank and the role of the World Bank that it was going to play in this country.  And I was there when, Mr Tembo gathered us together and said we hope that the World Bank will make a difference to this country. And I would like to say, that the World Bank has acquitted itself, not only in terms of how, what it has produced or funded but in terms of policy formulation as well. 

Every year or once or two years’ time we used to have a World Bank team here.

coming to advise us on what to do, policy wise. What we should be doing and what not to do as an independent country. We followed them religiously. And  we always looked forward to these young men coming into Malawi to advise us and we took them so seriously that young as they were they had, they were taken to His Excellency the President. I see Mama Kadzamira is here. She will certainly not probably contradict me, I hope not, that these people sat with the president and we were quite eager to hear what they had to say. I therefore would like to say that we have benefited a lot from the World Bank on the behalf of the Government of Malawi, on behalf of Malawians, in particular on behalf of Malawians that have been there, around for 50 years, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the World Bank for a lot of things they have done for us because without walking with us, a number of things that we have done in Malawi would not have been done. So I would like to thank them Madam who has been speaking here said not only will they continue to walk with us, but I suppose she was trying to say that we have long distances to cover and therefore this time not only are they going to walk with us but they are going to run with us. I think that’s what she meant.

On behalf, again of my country, Malawi. On behalf of the Government, Parliament, and others that are running this country. I would like to say that you will continue to find very willing partners to run with you, because running with us will not probably be an advantage to you but will be an advantage to ourselves and the people that we serve.

The question is will we this time do better the next 50 years than we did before. I would like to say that there are things that we have to do much better. In particular things that we have not done well and not probably as prepared as we were before is the importance that we attach to discipline, the importance that we attach to the value for money that you have to work hard in order to get it and the importance that we attach to self-restraint.

I think that you can have as beautiful policies as you like, you can have the best government that you like, you can have the World Bank advising you but if you lack discipline you will not make it. The lady here spoke about Cashgate. I am not in the habit of talking about Cashgate all that much but what she said is true. That instead of us burying our head in the sand and say and get very very embarrassed that Cashgate happened here, it has never happened elsewhere in the world but here. We can take bold bold determination and say here is the watershed where we say enough is enough, we will now take Cashgate to be a spring board and really really do the best that we can by making a number of changes and determining that we this time we will make it even more than we did before.

For this we need a very dedicated civil service, we need a selfless civil service. I have to tell you that I when, in 1964, Salaries in this country were determined; I think a number of you who were there will agree. The Skinner board was there. Salaries were determined, levels and so forth. From 64 down to the early 80’s there was no salary, general salary increase in this country. You will be surprised but this is so. There was no question of anybody thinking that their work habits will have to be lowered because there is no salary increase. As a matter of fact, the contrary was the case. We, who were there, young at that time, were absolutely convinced that this country was going to make it because we were there. We were going to do it, the best that we can, we were going to make sure that where it is necessary to do our best, we will do our best regardless.

There was no question at that time of anyone of us thinking that he is well off enough and that he was going to have a holiday in England. Never. There was no question there that somebody, one of us, would say my children were going to go to a better school than the others if they did not make it during their examinations. Never. We were all the same. And we all worked very hard. I hope that this spirit could now be resuscitated and with the World Bank walk the talk and do the best.

I was very encouraged, I think, now as not a very young man, because you will know now that when I say I admired the lady, who was singing,  you will know that it’s not so much because she was good looking, because the time for me to to talk about how good looking a lady is, is gone. She had a marvellous experience. When I listened to the music played by that young man I was thinking it was a Gramophone or some record that was being played. I could not believe that a Malawian could produce that music. When these ladies were dancing over there, they were the best that you could get. I asked myself, if these young people can put in their best and produce as good a result as that, why can’t we all, we Malawians, do the best in our jobs and get this country move forward. 

It is a possibility, it can be done. It was done tonight; it has been done in a number of cases. I went up there and looked at the paintings and that were done. By Malawians! To tell you the fact I was looking round to see whether one of the artists, will be a Gondwe, I didn’t see any. But I saw, I saw that all of them were Malawians and it can be done.

I would like, on behalf of Malawians, to tell the World Bank and to tell our  Development Partners, that out of the reforms we are doing; I suspect very much that we will walk and run with them for the good of our country particularly the poor in the rural areas. I was telling, yesterday, the Principal Secretaries and said you know, for you and I to be educated, villagers had to work very hard to toil and provide resources to    to get us educated. This is true, they worked very hard. The education we have is a subsidised education, and the people who subsidise in most cases are the villagers that are toiling in the villages. And I was saying that all that they are asking in return, now that we are educated, is that we do our jobs. Honestly, faithfully and as well as we think we can. There is no point in thinking that you will only do something if there is some advantage, personal advantage only. Because then you are not dedicated to Malawi, you are dedicated to yourself and you are not, probably as important to the country as you should be and as the country expected you to be when they educated you. 

I could say a lot of things but I’d like to end with saying that the World Bank has shown that they can be extremely useful to us and extremely friendly in the work that they do with us. And I would like, as a Malawian, as a representative of Malawi now, to assure them that if they are going to run, so will we. And that this time we will make doubly sure that the results that we are going to achieve are worthy of Malawi. It would, for those who have gone, leaders, I can mention a lot. You have mentioned Mandela; we had our own here also. People who worked very hard for us.

You know what I mean. They must be really really turning in their graves when they hear that regardless of what they thought their country was going to turn into the verdict is that  Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world.1 It must be very disappointing to them. Let   us try to see to it that the next 50 years will be made use of. And I am quite certain that this is going to be so. 

Outside, out there, some young man as I was coming in was asking me how we defeat poverty. And he had a microphone.  I think he wanted me to talk to him and tell him how it’s done and so forth. I only said that all that it needs is that we work harder than we do now. All of us! From top to bottom. Everybody! Young or old. If you are going to develop and increase the wealth of this country, it’s not going to be done by so and so working harder than you; it’s going to be done by you working harder than the other. That’s the only way it’s going to be. And with the support of our partners, the World Bank in front, I hope very much that this will be done and we will dedicate us to that.

With these very few remarks, I would like to wish the World Bank and ourselves the best of the next 50 years. 

Thank you very much.