Let that ear heed and that eye see

04Mar 2016
The Guardian
Let that ear heed and that eye see

A caution was sounded recently by the government on the urgent need to procure transformers from local companies and not from abroad.

The government said public companies faulted the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules and regulations as an excuse to make purchases from abroad, in a way ruining the economy.

Giving an example, it cited a typical case where several power firms were contracted to install electricity under the Rural Energy Agency (REA) in the 877bn/- power programme, but instead of buying power generating materials and equipment locally headed abroad.

Speaking on this remorseful state, managing director of Tanzania Electric Company (Tanelec) based in Arusha Zahid Saleh said, his firm is failing to attain its target of making 10,000 transformers needed because the state power utility, Tanesco, procures the goods from foreign companies.

So unwise made, the decision has cost the company laid off 60 workers. However, if the reverse were the case, the 3,000 transformers shortfall would have been met, and more jobs would have been created, he said.

In neighbouring Kenya, citizens are obliged to buy at least 40 percent of their home made goods as a rule and as motivation to create more industries and jobs, he added.

The predicament facing Tanelec is not inimitable to the local producers of power equipment and materials - it faces many domestic industries and has been a cry for most industrialists for years.

Think of the furniture making factories the country had, some of which are dead, sugar refining that President John Magufuli only lately put his mantle to defend, industrial tools, and even producers of building materials who have always been crying foul of cheap and sometimes, subsidized imports that have killed local industries.

Job creation has also been throttled, initiatives to invest blocked (as copying has become the norm rather than the exception), there is little or no value addition to produce, and as a result, the economy has been fetching little from abroad.

This situation looks quite quixotic. For on one hand, there is Adam Smith, the famous Scottish political economist who makes gruesome arguments n the value of commodities in building the wealth of nations.

Yet on the other is David Ricardo who was an English political economist speaks of comparative advantage and the need for nations to capitalise on the advantage of what they excel most in production.

Nevertheless, Tanzania’s predicament on this does not only lie in how it responds to the first principle of economics – the rule of supply and demand - but also in how it manages the sources of supply and demand for the good of the nation.

Either individual interests, have of late, come to override what Frenchmen call the ‘haute interesants’ of the nation, and as a result, there is little logic employed in pushing forward the ‘national rationale’.

But whatever the rule, the national rationale should prevail first, and if that ear should pay heed, and that eye should see, then there is no reason why people should not buy ‘Made in Tanzania’ first.

In the same vein, the same wisdom should prevail in the government taking up initiatives to protect well performing strategic industries for the stake of national development. And as to when this should start, perhaps one would say there is no time other than NOW.