Maputo — Mozambican President Armando Guebuza on Wednesday warned that a country cannot be built on the basis of gossip and self-flagellation, but only through a great deal of hard work.
“The country is built with work. Hard work”, Guebuza said in Sydney, during a meeting with a group of Mozambican resident in Australia.
If people were to stop thinking about gossip, then debate would be more productive and would make it possible to correct mistakes, he said.
As an example of “gossip”, Guebuza cited the claims that the mega-projects based on foreign investment are not interested in acquiring goods and services from local companies. The critics accuse the mega-projects of importing chicken and other goods because of the lack of local supplies.
Guebuza described such criticism as “self-flagellation” made by people unaware of the real development of the Mozambican economy. He explained that four or five years ago Mozambican poultry producers faced strong competition from cheap Brazilian frozen chickens.
He said that the Mozambican producers did not waste time on “gossiping”, but decided to work hard and raised the number of people working in these companies from 6,000 in 2009 to 62,000 in 2012 – which is more than the number of workers on the sugar plantations, traditionally regarded as the largest employers in the countryside.
“It’s true that we face difficulties”, said Guebuza. “It is true that the mega-projects are not making the best use of the potential, but it is also true that Mozambican companies must have people with spirit and the capacity to fight. They must be aggressive and capable of producing”.
Speaking of the pace of Mozambican development, Guebuza said the country is currently growing at a rate of seven per cent a year. At the end of the war of destabilisation, in 1992, the country had a per capita income of 80 US dollars, but the figure has now risen to 600 dollars.
“It’s still not much, but it’s what we have achieved, and we should be proud of it”, he declared.
The factors contributing to growth included the peaceful environment, the dedication and self-esteem of the Mozambican, a very active and participatory civil society – but also the policies of the government itself – Guebuza pointed out that the high rates of growth predate the recent mineral discoveries.
Turning to the natural disasters that hit Mozambique regularly, Guebuza said the government believes that the construction of more dams will help flood control. But the cost of building a large dam is a billion dollars or more.
Some people might think this was a small sum for a country, “but we don’t have such sums”, he added. “Our total budget is around four to five billion dollars a year. So a billion dollars is a quarter or a fifth of our annual budget. Finding an extra billion is not so easy. Good will is not enough”.
The January and February floods, the President said, reminded Mozambicans that the country is poor, and that to end poverty “We must produce wealth. We shouldn’t be afraid or ashamed of producing wealth”.
The recent discoveries of vast mineral deposits, notably of coal and natural gas, could feed false expectations. But Guebuza wanted them to be regarded as a challenge. He urged Mozambicans to work so that the country’s resources could transform the lives of all Mozambicans.
“To a large extent that’s why you (Mozambican students in Australia) are here”, he said. “It’s to learn what we have not yet mastered.
But no-one should dream of immediate results. Transforming resources into wealth could take a long time. Thus the Brazilian mining company Vale had signed a memorandum of understanding in 2004 – only seven years later did it begin mining coal at Moatize, in Tete province.
Similarly with natural gas. The deposits have been discovered in the Rovuma Basin, but the first production of liquefied natural gas is not expected until 2018. “That’s the reality of life”, Guebuza said.