EDITORIAL 0380, AUSTERITY AS A VIRTUE: THE CASE OF TANZANIA

EDITORIAL 0380, AUSTERITY  AS A VIRTUE:  THE CASE OF TANZANIA

The Republic of Tanzania has had two occasions to demonstrate to the rest of developing African nations to stay away from alien life styles that are incompatible with our habits and environments. In the first instance, it was under Tanzania’s founding father, Julius Nyerere. Today, the lesson seems to be repeating itself under President John Magufuli.
In the mid eighties, a strange pattern of lobby engaged the governments of struggling African nations. The lobbyists, in their bases in Western capitals, had carefully summerised their objectives and marked their targets. In this case, African countries managing weak economies badly needed a stimulant. As follow-up, officials of the International Monetary Fund, IMF and the World Bank, crisscrossed the continent, carrying in their brief cases, an abstract commodity for sale. This commodity turned out to be economic revamping policies that the authors considered solution to the ailing economies of African nations. This lobbying also impacted the political framework of these countries.
Among these policies were such confusing ones like Structural Adjustment Plan {SAP}, Population Growth and Control, Birth Control and so on. No doubt many countries glossed through these documents and were flattered and excited that they have found a clue to their economic woes.
Ironically, when they got to East Africa, they found a sage and elderly statesman, who had become immune to economic hardship and had taught his countrymen to live strictly within their means. This was at the time of President Julius Nyerere. Nyerere, had led his people to accept the principle of self-reliance management and prudent accountability as the only magic wand for economic stabilization, relevant for African economic growth.
After glossing through the IMF documents, Nyerere politely told his guests, that he did not need that stuff.
But strange and tricky as these lobby missions posed themselves, some African countries with weak economies ruined by corruption and mismanagement, went in for the deal, among which was Cameroon. We are emphasizing this issue because we are faced with the challenges that stand between us and our emergence dream of 2035.
In the case of Nyerere, he was determined to demonstrate how far the application of austerity measures under conditions that prove unbearable and self discipline can create an opening where mismanagement and corruption have blocked the way. In this case, it also requires a leadership that sees beyond the present.
Certainly, Nyerere, was blessed with these qualities, particularly, the quality of humility and honesty. This, however, explains why immediately after Nyerere, the country stared nose-diving into the deep pit of corruption.
That country is now under a new leadership headed by its new President, John Magufuli. Magufuli has inherited the leadership of a country with a corruption rating that places Tanzania on the 117th position out of 186 countries in the Transparacy International’s 2015 corruption index. As a possible solution or a way out this mess, Magufuli has cut number of ministries in his administration from 30, to 29, by merging ministries. He has also been able to identify 10,000 ghost workers whom he has wasted no time to throw away from the pay roll of the state. He even went farther to ban festivities marking the countries Independence Day and placed an embargo on public officials travelling out of the country.
It is obvious that this will sound very unpleasant, if not un-Cameroonian if that was in our situation, but it still sounds a good lesson to emulate.
In the first place, the number of public holidays that are work free have a very negative impact on our economy. Secondly, the number of government officials involved in foreign visits, either by the head of state, or ministers, is cash-consuming, unadvisable and simply amounts to waste, if not a deliberate drainage of public funds.
There are some good examples we should not shy away from copying, if only they can help us correct some of our mistakes. We can identify some of Tanzania’s problems with ours. So why don’t we try some austerity measures that will help us save some cash for better use in our economy?

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Eyong Kevin

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