Tanzania: Constitution Debate - Why Prioritising Economy Crucial

PUNDITS have played down an ongoing campaign on a new constitution, supporting the sixth phase government's priority to stabilize the country's economy.

They are of the view that the Head of State shouldn't be compelled into rewriting a new constitution, instead, she must be given time to implement the development agenda, for the country to have a strong economic base.

Addressing editors and journalists at the State House in Dar es Salaam last month, President Samia asked to be given enough time to pursue the country's economic goals before dealing with the constitution.

She made it clear that the nation must prioritize economic recovery amid uncertainties brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the opposition party, Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), has been conducting meetings, campaigning for constitutional change, a move that has received criticism from the public.

Speaking to the 'Daily News' yesterday, Professor of Economics at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Humphrey Moshi said the economy of the country relates directly to people's welfare, it should therefore be given priority.

Prof Moshi observed that people are entitled to their basic human rights including access to food, shelter, good health among other things which can result in a stable economy.

"Again, true democracy can be reflected on addressing the basic human rights and other factors can follow," said Prof Moshi.

He pointed out that the Co- vid-19 pandemic has pushed the world into the deepest global recession in living memory which will have lasting effects on economies and public finances, the reason many countries are focusing on the recovery of their economies.

The don, however, noted that the majority of the developed countries today went through the same process of growing and stabilizing their economies to improve the welfare of their people first.

Prof Moshi was seconded by a Lecturer at the Tumaini University Dar es Salaam College (TUDARco) Ms Rachel Yusuph who suggested that while building the national economy, the focus should be improving key productive sectors. She noted that demand for development should be given priority before reviving the new constitution agenda.

"The economy should come first because all we need is a good life, and it won't be attained without assurance to basic needs such as food, clothes, and shelter," she noted.

She went on to suggest the need for the government to transform the agriculture sector which is a backbone of the national economy

"Since the agriculture sector employs a majority of Tanzanians then it's crucial for the government, when building the economy, to reform the sector," she explained.

However, a veteran politician John Cheyo was of the view that the country already has a constitution that was drafted in the special constituent assembly in 2014.

Mr Cheyo, who is the national chairman of the United Democratic Party (UDP), said the ongoing campaign for a new constitution aims at diverting the country from implementing the development agenda.

"The country has a new constitution that was written

in 2014, it is now waiting for the votes from Tanzanians in Mainland and Zanzibar. Those who are organizing the debates should stop," he said.

"In this case, I see no reason to start afresh in rewriting a constitution since we have it already, all needed is the votes that would decide if the drafts should be applicable or not," added Mr Cheyo who was among the members of the Constitutional Assembly in 2014.

On his part, a University of Dodoma (UDOM) Lecturer Dr Paul Loisulie said both a stable economy and good constitution are crucial.

He said both the government and Chadema are standing for their substantive agenda that is to be implemented.

He stressed that both development and the national constitution are important but achieving them is a continuous and gradual process.

"But there is a need to bring the two agendas in one table of discussion. The president has to meet with leaders of political parties and have an in-depth discussion on the matter," he suggested.

Dr Consolata Sulley from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), insisted that prioritizing the economy is a good thing but other rights should also go in tandem.

Dr Sulley recommended that the government should devise a good plan so that the economic and constitutional aspects do not conflict with each other.

The proposed new constitution was to replace the current 1977 document. President Samia explained that currently, her focus is to unlock the coun- try's economic potential to raise individual and national income for improving livelihood.

"I can assure you that during the past three months the results have been immense, for instance, in terms of attracting more investors the number of investments registered from March to June, this year has almost doubled compared to the corresponding period last year," the Head of State said.

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