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

Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:34am GMT

By Jon Herskovitz

LILONGWE (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-sav2ing 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.

If doctors had been able to put Mutharika on life support, he probably would not have survived for long.

The precarious electric grid was under pressure as more Malawians returned home to watch TV and listen to radio reports about the failing health of a much loathed leader.

The hospital's emergency generator was out of diesel due to fuel shortages that grew the longer he ruled.   Continued...

Former Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika addresses the media, July 27, 2010. REUTERS/James Akena
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