Several industries, big and small, are being opened on a daily basis, a situation that can best resonate with the discourse of creating a better investment climate that dominated the early 2000s to the present.
Although the ongoing fast-paced industrial development can be said as more of a top-down approach, yet it is a diffusing one during the implementation phase for the fact that it is private individuals and institutions that invest in the drive rather than the government as it used to be the case during the era of a centralized economy when the government played a central role in the economy.
More importantly, the government has continued to work tirelessly to remove the barriers that have been slowing down the establishment of various industries. These include the facilitating of financing for the industrial activities, among other measures, by exhorting banks and other lending institutions to lower their interest rates, for instance.
Another major step has been the reduction, and perhaps removal, of unnecessary bureaucracy in government agencies that deal with business registration and regulation, including the Business Registration and Licensing Agency (BRELA) and the National Environmental Management Council (NEMC), among others.
However, while the time lapse between registration and industrial operation has decreased and more work is needed to further ease the business environment in the country, the consequences resulting from the expedited processes also call for increased attention.
This is particularly the case with environmental pollution caused by industrial activities in various parts of the country as a number of industrial plants polluting the environment and being fined accordingly, a sign that industrial pollution remains rampant despite increased government monitoring of the situation.
The situation may not be surprising, given the fact that businesses, if left unchecked, would always exploit the loopholes to increase their profit margins, ignoring the consequences their activities would cause to the people, who are the very markets of the products they make.
In this situation, the government would then find itself at crossroads regarding the speed it is ought to apply in addressing the complaints of bureaucracy from the business community, especially the ones about environmental assessment as far as the security of the people is concerned.
This is happening in the wake of the government urging its agencies to expedite the processes for industries to start operation, sometimes going as far as entirely skipping environmental impact assessment as required by the law.
While the postponement is welcome and well-intentioned, the violation resulting from this otherwise business-friendly decision could be violating the very foundations of the various responsibilities required of any investment.
This is happening amid reports of several industrial plants being fined for uncontrolled industrial waste and other violations in Dar es Salaam and other areas all over the country.
In view of this situation, both the government and the investors are bound to incur massive losses should the people and institutions not act judiciously and responsibly as far as environmental caring and monitoring is concerned in the industrialization drive.
More importantly, the communities living adjacent to the various environmentally misbehaving industries would be the ones suffering the most amidst no hope for responsible industrialization should the law and implementation not be strictly, fairly, and responsibly observed.
With environmental negligence, communicable diseases like tuberculosis and others would likely be on the increase and thus increase the burden on an already overwhelmed government to treat its people.
It is upon the government, then, to balance between industrial promotion and human protection since the two depend on one another. It is the people who will benefit from employment opportunities and the various locally made products sold cheaply, yet the industries would benefit from the market composed of people whose lives are endangered by industrial pollution.
The fact that giving too much leeway to industrial investors in the name of reducing bureaucracy may result in increased environmental abuse by the industries, and thus subjecting the people to increased misery, calls for the state to work on its internal modalities within its agencies to ease the process by removing any unnecessary hurdles so that investors would be able to meet the requirements smoothly and promptly without skipping any requirements.
In the wake of the mounting fascination of the renewed efforts at industrialization, the need to protect human life remains at the core of the various government operations; and as it has always been insisted, if left unchecked, private sector would always misbehave to maximize profit.
Experience from Southeast Asia’s 1960s industrialization should serve as a lesson that environmental responsibility should go hand in hand with industrialization in order to optimize the benefits of the activity that is otherwise well-intentioned for the people, the investors, and the government.
The writer is a development communications consultant based in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: [email protected]; Mob: 0716 466 044.