Dar es Salaam — Does the government under the ruling CCM favour areas where it enjoys support with better allocation of development funds?
This is the question being raised in different fora as the current wave of opposition members defecting to CCM on account of supporting the government and making sure that their areas are considered for development.
Read more: Tanzania president says his party will rule 'forever'
The debate was rekindled by recent remarks made by the chairman of the CCM youth wing (UVCCM), Mr Kheri James, who said the government could only take development initiatives to areas decided by the party. Even though he later apologised for saying CCM was solely in charge of deciding whether to bring about development or not in a given area and that no citizen could take any action against the party, the damage was already done. What is difficult to expose is how often this happens and to what extent.
On a campaign rally in Bugara Ward, Manyara Region, James unreservedly told a crowd of enthusiast rally goers that CCM, the ruling party, could not bring development to areas where their inhabitants voted for the opposition instead of the ruling party.
In his apology, however, James did not say what he was really apologizing for. He also failed to say that the statement was false and that he misled the public. The reason behind James' apology, as he put it, was the calls that he received scorning and warning him for his controversial statement which drew criticism and condemnation from all spectrums of the country.
Whether those who warned James did so because he lied or because he revealed CCM's apparent 'secret' is also yet to be known. What is known, however, is that James' statement came within three days after CCM secretary for Ideology and Publicity Humphrey Polepole rejected at a press conference James' statement, saying it did not reflect the party's stance.
Mr Polepole said that CCM was a strong believer in the policy that development knows no party- - reiterating the party chairman President John Magufili's mantra.
Polepole did not say what action, if any, the party would take against James if he went against the ruling party's position.
As yet, no one knows which side to believe. Is it James' apology without confessing to lying or Polepole's rebuttal with no commitment to take any actions against James?
"Tell him (that) we have heard his (James') retraction but we won't forget it," Hamad Hamis, a Twitter user, reacted to James' apology. "And we will make a follow up on all (the country's) areas under CCM, looking at their levels of development in comparison with those that are not."
The patterns by which CCM, being the hegemonic party in the country, redistributes resources to constituents has been an issue of contentious debate with accusations and counter-accusations being traded between the party's loyalists and critics.
CCM has always been seriously denying that it bases its government national expenditure on a segregated manner where it tends to favour its strongholds and ignore areas under the opposition.
That the Tanzanian government directs a disproportionate amount of expenditure to the most loyal districts was the main hypothesis of a study 'The Politics of Government Expenditures in Tanzania, 1999-2007.'
Using data on annual observations (1998-2007) for 114 Tanzanian districts, the study revealed that CCM allocated higher levels of per capita budget expenditures to those districts that it had won with a large margin of victory while giving lower levels of per capita budget expenditures to districts that voted with a higher degree for the opposition party.
Published in the journal of African Studies Review in 2011, the study took advantage of a shift in the tax regime which saw the abolition of the local development levy in 2003-2004.
Even though this tax constituted the primary revenue source for local government authorities, the government abolished it in response to widespread protests that enforcement was uneven and that the taxpayers did not receive commensurate benefits in the form of improved public services.
A 1998 revolt over the levy in the Arumeru District and the burning down of a tax office in the Kilosa District, for example, were just two of many protests that signaled widespread popular dissatisfaction.
But the abolition of the development levy, and the subsequent block grant distributed by the government in 2005 to make up for the loss in revenue, was an exogenous source of variation that enabled the government to reduce budget shares without raising red flags about the allocation process.
It gave the government, in other words, an opportunity to strategically manipulate the "replacement" of lost revenue for political purposes.
The abolition of the local development levy provided Laura Weinstein, the researcher of the study which won the 2010 graduate student essay prize from the African Studies Association, with a convenient benchmark by which she could examine the government's budgetary maneuverings in 2004-2005.
Since the government abolished the development levy between 2003 and 2004 and replaced the lost revenue with a block grant during the 2004--2005 cycle, the researcher analyzed the net gain or loss in the change of budget allocation to determine whether or not a district was targeted to receive a greater or smaller percentage of expenditures.
The study found out that the government reduced expenditures toward opposition and marginally supportive districts that did not significantly increase the vote share to above 60 per cent for the ruling party during the 2000 election. Arusha, Illala, Kinondoni, Temeke, Bukoba, Moshi, and Mwanza districts all received drastic decreases in the rate at which lost revenues were replaced with expenditures.
Furthermore, the government increased the budget rate in neighbouring districts in the same region where the districts did increase the vote share for the government after the first election. This demonstration effect is evidenced in both the Arumeru District in Arusha and Biharamuro District in Kagera where the districts increased vote shares to above 60 per cent after the first election.
A 1 per cent increase in vote share, the study notes, is associated with an increase of Sh1.51 per capita. If the average district population is 270,000, then this would equal a budget increase of additional Sh408, 000. For every one point increase in opposition vote share, the ruling party decreases expenditures by Sh2.04 per capita, or an average district level decrease of Sh550, 000.
More specifically, a 1 per cent increase in vote share for the presidential party led to a 1.12 per cent increase in change in Tanzanian shillings per capita. It also shows that as the vote share for the opposition increased, the rate of change for the budget decreased by 1.29 per cent, according to the study.
President Magufuli has more than once refuted the claims that the government favours those areas where CCM has massive support.
His "development has no party" statement is widely shared by his colleagues in the government and the party including Mr Polepole. When asked about the study's findings, Mr Polepole declined to comment inviting the reporter to meet him in his office with the study. But he has since been unavailable for interview on this study.
However, the study findings are not so much surprising for the main opposition party Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema).
The party's director of Protocol, Communications and Foreign Affairs, Mr John Mrema, sees the uneven distribution of development between the CCM- and opposition-led areas not an exception but a rule.
He told The Citizen that it has been the tradition of the government to marginalise areas under the leadership of Chadema and that the party has been repeatedly receiving complaints about segregation on allocation of development projects.
Mrema cites an example where the central government designated about Sh180 million for the construction of classrooms in Buyungu Constituency, but Gwarama Ward, under Chadema, did not receive a penny. But Kakonko Ward, under CCM, received Sh90 million.
"This is just one example," he said. "There are many areas in the country where the same is happening."