Tanzania: COVID-19 - Magufuli Calls for Debt Relief

Dar es Salaam — President John Magufuli yesterday called upon international financial institutions to consider extending debt relief to poor countries so that they can use the funds to fight against Covid-19.

The World Bank has set up a fast-track financing facility for Covid-19, which Dr Magufuli said was a good gesture, noting, however, that a debt relief would make a better economic sense than facilities that would entice poor countries into getting more loans which would create a new repayment burden in future.

He said currently, Tanzania spends about Sh700 billion per month on debt repayment.

"Out of the money, between Sh200 billion and Sh330 billion goes to the World Bank alone... Since the World Bank has shown its concern and willingness to help us out of this pandemic, allow me to request that that help should come in form of a relief on repayment of existing debts or at least its interest," President Magufuli said in his address to defence and security chiefs at his Chato hometown in Geita.

Should the relief be offered, said the head of state, Tanzania and other poor countries would be in a position to spend part of their revenue collections in their fight against Covid-19.

"I would request fellow African countries that our rich brothers should consider a debt relief for us instead of getting us into a new burden of loans for which they will demand interest, it would make economic sense if the loan was reflected in debt relief. That, I think, would be a good gesture for these financial institutions towards poor countries," said Dr Mafuguli.

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He took a swipe at those spreading fear among Tanzanians via social media platforms on what Covid-19 entails.

"Not everyone who gets coronavirus dies... Let's keep working hard so we can build our nation... Not everyone who dies, dies of Covid-19. We should fight fear which is itself a more dangerous thing than Covid-19," he said.

A look at the effectiveness of some traditional treatment means, including putting the patient close to the vapour of some herbs that have been boiled at 100 degrees Celsius may prove effective in evaporating the virus if it is still at the nose or at the mouth.

"This is important and scientific. Tanzanians must be encouraged to use other herbs including onions and other traditional chemicals," he said.

Reiterating that he will not announce a lockdown, President Magufuli however warned Tanzanians against accepting any gift from someone they do not trust, saying that could spread the virus further.

He said the battle against Covid-19 will be won through unity and through defeating fear as well as through putting God ahead of the fight. "We will defeat it just like the way we did to other types of battles that we have fought," he said, adding that he decided to make some changes at the health ministry in the pursuit for a better speed in dealing with the pandemic.

"I have made some few changes at the Ministry of Health so they can go with the speed that I expect from them," he said.

The newly appointed permanent secretary at the health ministry (read related article on Page 3) must also look at the health of people who were being kept at isolation centres.

"There is no reason of keeping people at the Magufuli Hostel for between 14 and 20 years while you can see that they are not sick. We must concentrate on the patients instead of concentrating on keeping healthy people in isolation centres. We are misusing our own resources," he said.

Tanzanians, said Dr Magufuli, must also do away with a mentality that everyone who comes from Dar es Salaam has Covid-19.

He called upon his fellow politicians to avoid an allure of using Covid-19 to gain political mileage.

"To my fellow politicians, it is time we understood that Covid-19 has affected almost all countries across the world and therefore, we must stand united and avoid the allure of seeking cheap popularity at a time when the country is at war," he said.

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