Tanzania: President Gesture Should Lift Workers' Spirits

editorial

President Samia Suluhu Hassan's speech on May Day was received with mixed feelings. This is hardly surprising given that the vast majority of workers in the public sector had sky-high hopes, and had expected to be given a pay raise for the first time in five years.

Instead, President Hassan reduced pay-as-you-earn (Paye) tax from nine to eight percent, and scrapped the six percent retention fee levied on outstanding higher education loan repayments to give beneficiaries who have completed their studies much needed relief.

While some may view the Paye reduction as nothing to write home about, it is at least a good start, taking into account the fact that President Hassan has been in office for less than two months. In her one-and-a-half months in office, she has managed to give workers something extra to take home every month, little as it may seem. Something is better than nothing, as they say.

She said the reason for not raising salaries was the global Covid-19 pandemic, which cut Tanzania's economic growth from 6.9 percent in 2019 to 4.7 percent in 2020, but being the astute politician that the new Head of State is, there are other overriding factors she did not mention for reasons that are obvious.

Any salary increase must be factored in well in advance when the government prepares its annual budget. It should be noted that the 2021/22 budget framework was unveiled on March 11 when President Hassan was still the Vice President. The budget that will be presented in Parliament next month will outline the government's priorities for 2021/22, but unfortunately a salary increase for Tanzania's long suffering workers will not be one of them.

That is why President Hassan was confident enough to promise workers a salary increment next year. This solemn pledge stems from the fact that the 2022/23 budget will be the first annual fiscal plan to be prepared under her tutelage. It is a promise workers hope she will keep.

REMINDER ON PRESS FREEDOM

Today is World Press Freedom Day when the international community commemorates the fundamental principles of press freedom. It's when to remind the authorities - including governments - of their obligation to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It is also an opportunity to evaluate press freedom around the world, raise awareness about attacks against mass media organs, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their press and other freedoms, their limbs and/or lives in the exercise of their avowed profession.

In Africa, we are today reminded of the Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press adopted in the Namibian capital on May 3, 1991 to promote an independent and pluralistic African Press. In Tanzania, we take this golden opportunity to remind the new government of President Samia Suluhu Hassan to give press freedom due consideration after the media in Tanzania went through hell in the last five years or so.

This year's theme "Information as a Public Good" reminds us to cherish information and press freedom in this day and age of rapidly-advancing technologies to firmly keep abreast of global developments.

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