Dr. Mpango: Only 'hapa kazi tu' can bring investors, not ideology

10Jan 2018
The Guardian
Dr. Mpango: Only 'hapa kazi tu' can bring investors, not ideology

THERE is an expression in literature that a new order comes into the world wearing masks of a bygone age, which it seeks to emulate, but only because it is trying to distance itself from current circumstances, policy orientations.

Still in trying to imitate a past period, it is inwardly aware what limitations it had faced and why a different order took its place, and also that the population, still innocent at an earlier period (for instance the complete trust on political authorities at the time of independence) can't be constituted again. The public is more critical and has rough ideas on what needs to be done, and can discern errors in the making, largely.

That is why there  an interesting situation where current policy makers lay great emphasis on the Arusha Declaration but each of them remembers the penury and collapse of industries that the situation produced, whether it was due to the policy, mismanagement or insufficient capacity. In that case the devotion to that phase of the country's experience is checked by the urgent need to succeed in current tasks and objectives, which means the right reflexes must be honed so that the government is not led astray by mere emphasis on ideology. And there are well positioned individuals who live on churning out ideology, not clear objectives.

A case at hand is a recent report on the visit to Dodoma of the Norwegian ambassador to Tanzania, who had intense consultations with the Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr. Philip Mpango. The minister is said to have 'appealed' to Norwegian investors to venture into various sectors, like energy, forestry, agriculture, along with oil and gas. For one thing, the Norwegians have been in oil and gas for most of the past half century, and a leading Norwegian firm, Statoil or State Oil these days, has decades of experience in Tanzania - plus various other firms. What the Norwegians need are the right conditions for investments of a long term basis but Tanzania continually scores low marks in Doing Business rankings which investors closely watch.

The way the talks of the minister with the diplomat visitor were elaborated in media reports given by the minister's secretariat was question begging, for instance telling the visitor that the presence of industries will boost the livelihoods of Tanzanians, especially those engaged in agriculture. Tanzania likewise needs support in energy as it is building a standard gauge railway which shall need plenty of electricity to operate, to which the envoy noted that the country had given 600million Norwegian kroner to REA (the rural energy agency). Clearly the envoy did not go to Dodoma to exchange those reminders, as each side knows it all.

Dr Mpango has a unique situation of being a vital link in policy initiation and implementation under aegis of a political environment of sheer pragmatism, that what is workable ought to be done so that there are results (more efficient than the Big Results Now model that was limited to reporting systems, follow up, etc). As the public is basically awaiting results in what is perhaps the most intense and avowed thrust for development since independence, it is needful for the minister to put aside ideological inhibitions and pick advise from his numerous visitors who wish to get assurances on improved business climate. It is political will, chiefly. It is a test of opening up the country's economy, not an issue of being helped to reach objectives, and it is this assurance that investors need, to move in.