A heated debate erupted in the National Assembly in Dodoma on Wednesday over the absence of Minister for Finance Mustapha Mkullo from the august House at a time when serious issues relating to his personal conduct in the ministry were being discussed.
While some members of Parliament accused the minister, who is reportedly out of the country on official duty, of running away from his responsibility, the government chief whip, who is also Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs) William Lukuvi jumped to his defence, saying “Mkullo is in the US for the country’s very important interests.”
However, Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai intervened by reminding the House about the ministers’ duty to inform the Speaker’s office whenever they travel abroad for whatever reason when there is a sitting of the National Assembly.
He said that as far the House was concerned, Mkullo had not communicated with the Speaker’s office that he would not be in the country during the ongoing parliamentary session. Ndugai’s intervention was a clear signal to Lukuvi that, much as Mkullo’s trip to the US might be very important to Tanzania, courtesy demanded that the minister communicated with the Speaker’s office about his absence.
Although Lukuvi would not go into details about what business was so significant to the country’s interest that the Finance minister had to be away, it is very likely that it was linked to the country’s forthcoming budget. It is important to bear in mind that this is April, and in less than two months from now the parliamentary budget session will be starting in Dodoma to deliberate on the 2012/13 financial year.
The government is by now supposed to have already come up with a draft budget, and it is this draft budget that the Finance minister is likely to have flown out with to Washington for consultation with the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Interestingly, members of parliament who complained about the minister’s absence did not complain about the business that had taken Mkullo to the US. Their concern was the minister’s absence from the House at a time when he was supposed to respond to numerous questions, most of them very critical and relating to his personal conduct as minister for Finance.
Since Tanzania elected to become a donor-dependent nation, with almost 30 per cent of its budget being funded by the Britton Woods institutions and other donor countries, the country lost its sovereignty on budget preparations. Therefore, every year before tabling its official budget in parliament, the minister for Finance is forced to submit the budget draft to the WB and IMF, on behalf of Tanzania’s donors (conveniently referred to as development partners) for approval.
And that is the price Tanzanian leaders are forced to pay for their lack of seriousness in charting out the country’s path towards self-reliance, which is quite possible given the country’s abundant natural resources. The question which Tanzanians ought to be asking themselves is: if Kenya, which is not as endowed as Tanzania in natural resources, is capable of financing 95 per cent of its budget, what makes it so difficult for Tanzania?
Unfortunately for Tanzania, its problem is caused by the nature of leadership it is saddled with, leadership that has been fighting to be at the helm not for bringing national, but rather personal development. It seeks the path to the State House through all the tricks in the book, not with the aim of turning around the country’s economy but to enrich itself and its cronies.
In short, they have been fighting for the Union presidency without being armed with any kind of agenda as to what kind of nation they want to build. A few years before his death on October 14 (as we are told) 1999, the Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, had the following to ask the Tanzanian leadership:
“I can understand your decision to do away with the policy of Ujamaa…but what about the policy of self-reliance? Are you also not interested in it?”
Although all the three successive CCM governments of presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete elected to remain mum about Mwalimu’s question on self-reliance, they have continued to maintain, theoretically in the constitution, that they follow the same policy that had been espoused by Mwalimu’s first phase government!
Practically, all their actions have further driven Tanzania into a fully-fledged dependent nation. But because the country has since the inception of the second phase government lacked focused and a committed leadership ready to take what former premier, Edward Lowassa, calls ‘tough decisions’ and what Benjamin Mkapa referred to last week as ‘consequences that usual go with such decisions,’ Tanzania is presently in an economic lurch Tanzanian leaders have continued to trek to Washington, year in year out, despite having been told times and again during their days at the University of Dar es Salaam that there was not a single nation that developed through its closeness with the western countries they repeatedly visit. And the end result of such trips is that Tanzanians are told to protect themselves with mosquito nets, but not to destroy the very environment that breeds mosquitoes!
On Thursday parliamentarians in Dodoma complained bitterly about the priority government officials give to donors when it comes to consultations. They said it was important that such officials consulted more with the National Assembly which represents the people rather than foreigners.
Much as they were very right in their stance, unfortunately for them they did not appear to realize that their government had trapped itself through its continued dependence on donor funding, which currently stands at 40 percent of its national budget. Therefore, instead of asking what in the eyes of the present government sees it as impossible, they ought to help it extricate itself from such a problem.
And one of the ways of doing that is to ensure that they get rid of individuals in the government (in the form of ministers) whose actions continue to compromise the government to continue depending on donor funding. Thus, the move to force the prime minister to resign if erring ministers didn’t by Monday, next week, is a move in the right direction - although it is just part of the process towards bringing about an accountable leadership.
And while still on the collecting MPs’ signatures for forcing the prime minister’s resignation, it is equally important for the lawmakers to extend the net to ministers who refused to step down in relation to problems relating to the Mbagala and Gongo la Mboto bombings the and doctors’ strike. However, it should not be lost on the MPs that bringing about a self-reliant nation will not be attained by the foregoing actions per se, it requires more than that.
Tanzanians ought to look critically at the entire system of governance; they have to seriously ask themselves what kind of government they want, and for achieving what objectives. Their friends, the Chinese, whose level of development was more or less similar to that of Tanzania in the 1980s, have shown them the way.
Last week, when taking part in Mwalimu’s Chair Memorial lectures, Mkapa said Tanzanians were praising the Chinese without realizing that they got where they are through what he claimed to be American investments.
Unfortunately, our intellectuals at the Hill failed to pin down the man and so allowed him to get away with murder. The point is, the Chinese’ massive economic development which has made them the second economy after the US has been realized not through the kind of investments we are currently involved in. They were closely guided by Teng tsio Ping policy of ‘the colour of a cat is immaterial as long as it can catch the rat’.
Industrially, in fulfillment of the foregoing policy, they thoroughly prepared the groundwork, not by increasing the number of degree holders in the way Tanzania is busy involved in to the point of fuelling cheats, but by increasing the number of well trained technicians.
The end result of this education policy is that China has all kinds of technicians to meet all kinds of industrial and technological investments and they don’t call themselves as the world factory for nothing.
But as the Chinese worked on the massive development of their technicians in readiness for absorption of global industrial needs, they delayed their country’s entry into international institutions such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in order to give themselves space for preparation.
This brings us to what columnist and political commentator Jenerali Ulimwengu once said in relation to Tanzania’s haste to accent to the world copyright instrument. He said there was no need for such a rush because Tanzania needed space to get its own inventions before getting on to the global stage.
But because we have had the kind of leadership that does not have an agenda on what it wants for its people, the country plunged into the instrument, hence tying its hands. As we speak, the Chinese have their own home-grown technologies in every facet of life - from vehicles to medicine and computers to space.
What have we done? We have been doing the reverse! Instead of building more technical colleges, we are busy building white elephants in the form of universities.
The Chinese gave us Mang’ula Machine Tool to help us become self-reliant in spare parts manufacturing, especially for the Tanzania-Zambia Railway, but we have twice failed to run even the institution, let alone the machine tool!
Instead of firing erring managers of our light industries, we sought quick fixes in the form of wholesale privatizations.
And the difference between the Chinese and our government is that while we allowed people who had brought down our public institutions to bask in sunshine with the money they looted from us, the Chinese sent all of them to the firing squad.
Come to think of it: How does one allow some guys to get the country into a fake contract that drains 300bn/- (200m US dollars) which could have given Air Tanzania Company Limited two brand new Airbus 340 planes? And if we didn’t know why Tanzania is where it is, the foregoing is the answer. Our continued conduct to treat thieves and corrupt elements in our midst with kid gloves is our undoing.