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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Why Tanzanians are so poor, living on less than an EU cow

Tanzania has been ‘Independent’ from foreign rule for nearly half-a-century, under home-grown leaders. However, the country isn’t poor... It’s home to the third largest livestock herds in Africa – and the continent’s fourth-largest producer of gold, currently selling at around $1,700 an ounce!

It has fabulous natural wealth: assorted minerals; natural gas (with potential for petroleum); water bodies; arable land; marine and forestry products...

Other comparative advantages include political stability (so far); internal security (so far); international goodwill within the comity of nations (so far, touch wood!); a docile population, and landlocked neighbouring states – bestowing upon the country’s entry/exit points entrepot status in terms of international/regional trade and other trafficking. Oh; there’s a lot more of such positives for Tanzania.

All that notwithstanding, however, Tanzanians remain abjectly poor, with 36 per cent of them living under the poverty line of two US dollars a day: standard allocation for a cow in the EU and Japan!

Some of our otherwise exalted leaders have been quoted abroad as saying they don’t know why Tanzanians are so poor – along with another twenty or so of the world’s poorest national communities!

The answer that readily comes to the mind of an honest observer is that Tanzanians are wallowing in poverty (and preventable/curable diseases) today simply because the best brains aren’t in Govt. and related institutions.

There’s a rider to that: if, indeed, the best, practical brains are in public positions of authority as development planners and decision makers, then they’re not fully dedicated and truly committed to the welfare of their country and its people! I’ve said this before; I’m saying it now – and I’ll say it again and again until those who still don’t know why Tanzanians are so poor will have got the message loud and clear!

Take, for example, the views of a highly successful private sector entrepreneur in Tanzania (and abroad, no doubt), Ali Mufuruki. The man’s views came out in the Adam Simbeye Tv programme ‘This Week in Perspective’ aired on November 3 this year. [Fortunately, an extract thereof was published in ‘The Citizen’ on November 11, 2011 under the headline ‘Tanzania shilling in deep trouble: here’s what we can do to save it.’

[I don’t know how the paper accessed the views... But, considering that Mufuruki was once upon a time on several Committees of the Nation Media Group, and Board Chairman of Mwananchi Communications Ltd... Local broadcasters invariably treat their material as trade secrets, never posting same on the web as a matter of course! But, that’s another story...].

As I was saying before I interrupted myself, Mufuruki does indeed have excellent ideas on how to make the Tanzania shilling strong once again. The measures he proposes may not take the national currency back to the good old days of the Gold Standard, before US President Tricky Dick Nixon played merry Hell with the Bretton Woods’ scheme of things in the early 1970s! That was when a troy ounce of gold fetched Sh252 ($35).

Thus, one US dollar was exchanged for a mere Sh7.20 (above Sh1,750 today!); the pound sterling: Sh20 – before it fell to Sh14 under British Premier Harold Wilson! Mufuruki’s ideas are workable; and yet, they’re so simple and straightforward that one wonders why our development planners and decision-makers continue to trample them underfoot even as the economy uncertainly totters on.

Look at it this way... Doesn’t someone in Govt. and related institutions (such as the central Bank of Tanzania) know that heavy borrowing by the State is counterproductive in the long run? That failure to strictly control foreign currency transactions gives unscrupulous dealers (including commercial banks and bureaux de change) room to engage in currency manipulations and other malpractices?

No wonder Tanzania’s fast becoming the playground for drug dealers, money launderers and speculating tramps. Hasn’t it been said that Tanzania’s one country where an ‘investor’ comes in empty-handed and empty-pocketed, and do a ‘Martha’s Vineyard’ unchecked by turning Tanzania into ‘Shamba la Bibi,’ harvesting at no cost to them where they haven’t sowed? Tanzania needs the likes of Mufuruki in government decision-making. Cheers!

Credit to the citizen