INSIGHT-Malawi paid price for ego of "Economist in Chief"

Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:28am GMT

* Malawi seen as cautionary tale on cutting aid

* Mutharika starts strong, ends as despised leader

* New President Banda pressed to end petrol, forex crunch

By Jon Herskovitz

LILONGWE, April 16 (Reuters) - Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika's fight with foreign donors may have cost him his life.

When the 78-year-old collapsed from cardiac arrest a week ago - and subsequently died - simple medicines he needed were out of stock because of a foreign currency shortage exacerbated by his policies.

The Health Ministry's pharmaceutical warehouse, across the street from the Lilongwe hospital the ailing president was rushed to, should have held those life-saving drugs, according to hospital officials in the capital.

But its construction was delayed due to a budget crunch caused by an aid freeze over a fight he picked with donors.

Even if the warehouse had been completed, its shelves would have been largely empty because the country did not have the money to buy foreign pharmaceuticals.   Continued...

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