21 June 2018

Tanzania: The 2018/19 Governmment Budget - Towards the Elimination of Donor Dependency

ON Thursday, 14th June, Finance and Planning Minister Dr Phillip Mpango, presented the government proposed 32.5 trillion shillings budget for the financial year 2018/19 financial year, for consideration by the National Assembly.

For the lovers of the Arusha Declaration on Socialism and Self-Reliance, the most attractive feature of this budget was the further reduction on donor dependency.

In his speech when presenting the said budget to the National Assembly on Thursday 14th June, 2018, the Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Phillip Mpango, revealed that there will be a further reduction on our dependency on foreign donor funds in financing the country's development budget, from 3.03 trillion/-in the 2017/18 budget; to 2.12 trillion/-in the 2018/19 budget.

This is, indeed, very pleasant and welcome news, whose great significance will be discussed a little later in this article. By long standing agreement among the countries which constitute the East African Community, these government's proposed budgets are supposed to be presented simultaneously in the National Assemblies of all the member countries. But so far, Burundi has not been able to act on this agreement.

This is because Burundi's financial year traditionally starts on 1st January, which is different from the other member states whose financial year traditionally starts on 1st July.

However, the East African Community (EAC) Secretary-General has indicated that Burundi may join the other member states pretty soon, for he was quoted by the CITIZEN newspaper of Monday, 18th June, as having said the following:- "So far it is only Burundi which is not presenting its budget on the same day as the other EAC member states, but it will soon join them in doing so".

The Secretary-General is reported to have said that in a statement which he made on the day preceding the presentation of their budgets by the other four member states, namely Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, to their respective National Assemblies.

The budget wins unprecedented accolades. In accordance with the Rules of the House, the proposed budget will be debated by the MPs for seven consecutive days before voting takes place to determine its approval, or otherwise.

But in the meantime, the budget proposals have been hailed in a variety of positive comments which were published in the print media.

In his one hour and forty-five minutes budget speech, the Finance Minister outlined five priority areas, which are intended to facilitate the required investment in the government's much touted industrial drive.

These are: (a) Agriculture; (b) Industries; (c) Social Services; (d) Infrastructure; and (e) Defense and Security services.

The Minister mentioned agriculture as the first priority, and revealed that more funds will be allocated to this sector with a view to improving irrigation infrastructure, plus strengthening the supply of agricultural inputs and implements, improving extension services and research undertakings, and the dissemination of research findings to the peasants.

This, indeed, is most appropriate, as the agricultural sector is said to employ nearly 70 percent of Tanzania's working population, and provides 65 percent of industrial raw materials.

The second priority is in relation to increased investment in the industrial sector, into which, the Minister said, the government will direct more efforts in order to attract greater investments from the private sector.

The third priority is the social services sector, in which the main focus will be on the distribution of clean water to a much larger number of people, especially those in the rural areas; the financing of free education; and increased distribution of medicines and medical equipment.

The fourth priority area is the infrastructure sector, wherein the focus will be on the construction and rehabilitation of the supportive infrastructure, with a view to increasing electricity generation from the new Stiegler's Gorge hydro-power station, the construction of the new standard gauge central line, the construction of tarmac roads connecting the different administrative regions, plus improvements in rural roads, as well as those related to the tourism sector. The fifth priority is in relation to defense and security.

Indeed, as a peace loving nation, locating defense and security (i.e. the purchase of expensive military hardware) at the bottom of the list of the big five priority areas, appears to be entirely appropriate.

Donor dependency further reduced. This is precisely what is provided for in the 1967 Arusha Declaration on Socialism and Self-Reliance.

However, since we are already two full generations away from the time when the Arusha Declaration was promulgated, many of our readers today may not be fully aware of its contents regarding the policy of 'self-reliance'. It may be therefore helpful to briefly reproduce the relevant statements thereof.

The relevant (brilliant) exposition reads as follows (my translation from Kiswahili):- "(a): We are waging a war: TANU is fighting a serious war to transform our nation from its current position of economic weakness, to a position of relative strength.

It is because of such weakness that we have generally been despised and neglected. We now need to carry out a revolution, which will uplift us from this position of economic weakness, to a more respectable position of strength, which will then shield us from being despised and neglected.

(b) Money is not the poor man's weapon: But it is obvious that in fighting this war, we have chosen the wrong weapon, namely money. We are trying to overcome our poverty by using the rich man's weapon, which we, in fact, do not have. It is as if we are saying that 'money is the only basis for development'.

It is true that there are certain friendly countries which are willing and ready to assist us in our development efforts. But there is no country in the world that will give us sufficient grants or loans to meet all our requirements.

(c) Loans and grants could compromise our freedom: However, even if we were able to obtain them, would that really be in our national interest?

Genuine freedom implies self-reliance; and that cannot be maintained in a situation where a nation depends almost entirely on loans and grants from other nations.

Hence, even if there were countries which are willing to lend or give us all the money we need for our development programmes, it would still be unwise for us to receive such money, without giving serious consideration to its negative impact on our country's freedom and security.

Hence, from now on, we must stand on our own feet, and walk with our own legs, instead of taking an upside position. Industrial development will surely come, and money will also come.

But the basic input must be the efforts exerted by the people themselves. Therefore, our primary tools for development shall be: (a) the land; (b) the people; (c) clean politics; and (d) good leadership".

Thus, President Magufuli's governments' continuing efforts in reducing 'donor dependence' should be seen, and appreciated, in that wider perspective.

We appear to be moving, albeit slowly, but steadily, towards the elimination of 'donor dependence', in implementation of the Arusha Declaration on 'self-reliance'.

The Official Opposition's misconceived concept of 'an alternative budget'. In a statement made by the Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Freeman Mbowe at a press conference held on Friday June 16th, 2018, he is reported to have said that "the opposition bench will table an alternative budget for the year 2018/19 in Parliament".

This was, in fact, expected, because Hon. Zitto Kabwe, MP for the Kigoma Urban Constituency, had already informed the public as early as March, 2018; that he was planning to introduce 'an alternative budget' during this year's budget session of the National Assembly.

He had also indicated that as a methodology of achieving his objective, he would persuade the Official Opposition camp in parliament to present the same.

Hon. Zitto Kabwe appears to have been quite successful persuading the Official Opposition to adopt his plan, because they did indeed make an unsuccessful attempt to introduce the promised 'alternative budget' in the National Assembly on Monday, 18th June, 2018.

However, that attempt was unsuccessful, for a very good institutional reason, which is simply that 'alternative budgets' are totally unknown in the conventional parliamentary processes worldwide.

It is for that reason that there is no provision in the Tanzania National Assembly Rules of procedure for the transaction of such unconventional business. And that is why the said attempt had to fail.

The normal accepted procedure. The normal, accepted procedure for transacting business in the National Assembly is by way of 'motions' which are moved and seconded.

Thereafter, any MP can move an 'amendment motion', proposing amendments to the original motion. But there is no provision for 'alternative motions'!

Hence, what the Official Opposition could have done without offending the Rules of the House, was to move an 'amendment motion', seeking to amend the original motion which was moved by the Finance Minister on Thursday, 14th June, 2018.

In that connection, the Rules of the House helpfully include detailed provisions for the moving of such 'amendment motions'.

This enables the movers of such motions to avoid the danger of their being rejected, merely for being 'out of order'; that is to say, of being in breach of the Rules.

It is my sincere hope, that Hon. Zitto Kabwe (the originator of the idea of an 'alternative budget'), and the leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament (who generously agreed to adopt that idea), will benefit from the clarification provided in this article, and that will hopefully enable them to do better next time.

But they must still keep in mind the fact that any budget amendments moved by the opposition camp will have very little chance of passage in the National Assembly.

This is principally because, as we have already seen above in respect of the 2018/19 budget, the opposition's proposed "five key areas" which it claims "are critical for the development of Tanzania", have already been adequately addressed by the CCM government. This was the reason for the almost unanimous public acclamation of this budget.

Hence, it is to be expected that the majority of the MPs (being the peoples' representatives), would reject any such amendment, and thus vote in favour of the government budget, as originally presented by the finance minister.

piomsekwa@gmail.com / 0754767576.


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