60 years: Low levels of corruption helped our modernization efforts

08Dec 2021
The Guardian
60 years: Low levels of corruption helped our modernization efforts

PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan was early this week opening another major investment project, this time in Kigamboni suburb of the city, where an Egyptian investor is setting up a large electrical equipment plant, and pushing on with an industrial city with other investors.

While this buzz of investor arrivals is being credited with the conducive atmosphere that the sixth phase government is putting in place, there are auxiliary factors in place. One is said to be the geographical gateway to a wider regional market, another is the prevailing peace, and more significantly, low prices of labour and low corruption.

Those who follow discussions for instance in the legislature and even on routine channels like radios or newspapers, television etc would know that it takes nearly twice the cost of building a substantial piece of infrastructure in Kenya compared to Tanzania, when a few recent project costing examples are put on the table. As a matter of fact Tanzania wasn’t always a cheaper place but it appears some corrections were made especially during the fifth phase presidency and perhaps starting earlier, as the government battled to ensure all regions are connected by tarmac roads. The costs must have plummeted by nearly a half.

The reason for this supposition is that a recent discussion on a World Bank report on Zambia indicated that costs of building a tarmac road there are much higher than in Tanzania, whereas a former deputy minister for Finance, Kilontsi Mporogomyi (after leaving that post) once remarked in the legislature that it takes 1m dollars to build a kilometer of tarmac road in Tanzania while it takes 500,000 dollars to do so in Zambia. If the situation drastically changed and it is Zambia that is far more costly, what happened?

Looking at the way the fifth phase uplifted the roads and social services infrastructure, a lot had to do with rectifying faulty procurement where clever people hid behind procurement procedures that are in the last far from transparent, to slot any bills they wanted. The government for instance eliminated middle men in importing medicines and getting them to hospital counters or pharmacy shelves, and this way the cost of basic drugs plummeted, and hospital services could finally uplifted, Costs of medical treatment subdued, enabling the government, after whittling down other waste channels, to vastly add infrastructure.

That is why, at 60 years of independence, it is deplorable to see that apart from the president and a few top aides, these issues aren’t being articulated at the ground level or grassroots politics, whereas neglecting these matters leads to this work not receiving the support it deserves.  But since far too many enjoy corruption in one way or another, all we can hope for is that in wishing to meet expectations of the population, the government will remain vigilant as to what is the right thing to do, especially in relation to public expenditure standards. To be struck in fear by a chorus to weaken presidential powers is unhelpful.