Joyce Banda - job could make her 'mad'

Blantyre - Malawian President Joyce Banda on Friday gave a candid glimpse into the stresses of office, admitting that thinking of the plethora of problems including widespread poverty could drive her mad.

"With this job of being president, you can run mad when you think of the many problems the country faces," Banda said during her televised national address marked by prayers.

Malawi is still plagued by endemic poverty, 49 years after independence from Britain.

Banda, the country's first female president, came into office in April 2012, after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Since taking charge Banda has overseen a raft of policy changes in a bid to boost the economy and unlock donor funding.

The measures included the unpopular devaluation of the kwacha currency by 50%, the easing of foreign exchange restrictions, and the raising of fuel prices and cutting of subsidies.

But the interventions have not been enough to ease poverty, in a country where 39% of the 13 million people live on less than a dollar a day.

"The majority of Malawians are still poor. They have been in this condition too long," she said.

40% of budget

Banda said she had remained "cool" since taking over the presidency and had "tried to resist to be idolised as a semi-god, in contrast to previous leaders."

"I remain Joyce Banda," she added.

In 2011, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)suspended a $79.4m credit facility during the administration of Mutharika, who died from a heart attack in April 2012.

Key donors, including Britain, also suspended aid due to concerns about Mutharika's autocratic rule.

Donors provide up to 40% of Malawi's development budget and salaries for nearly 170 000 civil servants.

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