Friday, April 22, 2011

Forex,fuel, and good conversation

So there is a fuel shortage in Malawi right now. Most people here link the shortage to a lack of forex, i.e. Malawi doesn't have enough foreign currency (basically US dollars) to buy gasoline (petrol). I have no idea if this theory is true, but it certainly seems plausible. Does anyone have more information on this? For businesses in Malawi, mine included, availiablility of fuel is critical. I can't run my boats without it. Most business owners I talk to here think that the national bank exchange rate very much over-values the kwacha. They argue that the kwacha should be devalued. Even sanctioned forex bureaus here are exchanging for well above th 150ish kwacha to the USD bank rate. I suppose I agree that the banks should be allowed to float the kwacha more but I'm not really sure that it would solve much. It would seem to me that there are structural reasons why the kwacha is depreciating that will not change whether or not the government officials recognizes this or not. Devaluing the kwacha would certainly help me in the short term but I've not heard any case why its a good idea for Malawi overall. Again if anyone could enlighten me on this subject I would love it hear it.
Otherwise its Easter holiday weekend and here at Kande Beach that means lots of local city-folk flocking here to the countryside for a little breather. The Malawian middle-classes are growing, intelligent, and increasingly populated by black Malawians. This is very healthy. We are situated next to a lodge that caters for all budgets so its a great place to see all sorts of people. Yesterday afternoon I had a great conversation with a Zimbabwean lady who spent over a decade in the States and now teaches German back in Harare. Last week I spoke with a Malawian travel agent about the rapidity with which some Chinese in Malawi are picking up ChiChewa. And just last night I spoke with a British ex-overland truck driver who now works in the construction business in Tanzania.
There are benefits to living out here...

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