World Bank right about TASAF, but the problem of poverty is vast

04Feb 2020
The Guardian
World Bank right about TASAF, but the problem of poverty is vast

FUNCTIONARIES in the World Bank and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) who are likely to have been intensely involved in the work of the Tanzania Social Action Fund (TASAF) had something to smile about at the start of the week.

Outgoing World Bank country director Bella Bird was fulsome in his praise of the anti-poverty government agency, advising the government to sustain and invest more in poverty eradication initiatives. She said the TASAF initiative has a hugely positive impact on the lives of needy groups and ought to be reinforced.

She emphasized this need as vital for the country to achieve its various development goals, where obviously attaining middle income status and a modicum of industrialization is primary. Obviously the atmosphere of these reflections on the work of TASAF was a bit relaxes as it was a farewell ceremony, but it is undisputable that most of what the outgoing director said could be pointedly affirmed in a more emphatic workshop environment. The issue is whether as director Bird appeared to suggest, the TASAF initiative comes close to providing an answer to poverty, or it is only about some particularly marginalized groups. Top officials may be pinning hopes on TASAF.

While there can be no disputing about the ground breaking work conducted by TASAF in finding a key to alleviate the more acute situations of poverty, it is also evident that its role is limited and likely to remain so. As director Bird noted, TASAF ‘has played a major role in bringing down the level of abject poverty and hence ought to be sustained,’ and for a top World Bank official leaving the country, the topic she selected was well intentioned. It helped cultivate an atmosphere of harmony on strategic initiatives or performance.

What may especially elated PMO officials was the remark that a good number of countries are implementing the same project but TASAF shows the best and pioneer programme across Africa in ending poverty. “I wanted to say a few things about TASAF just as I leave Tanzania. I have been here for four years and seven months and I must say that when I first came and looked at our portfolio, I looked for the very impressive projects there. But what struck me about TASAF is that it is a powerful instrument to meet the poorest and most vulnerable people in the country.” It was a deep seated avowal as to something that is close to her heart, and not just managerial experience.

But the outgoing director also touched on the statistical margins of TASAF contribution from which one gets a clear picture of its strategic positioning. She said that a recent joint assessment of poverty alleviation between the World Bank and the National Bureau of Statistics indicated that ‘if TASAF had not been there, the rate of poverty in Tanzania would be at least two percent higher…This is the kind of independent assessments or validations that show how impactful is the work that TASAF is doing.’ Given the fact that the rate of less than one dollar a day poverty level in Tanzania is still higher than 30 percent, it is clear that we cannot sit on our TASAF laurels but we must work harder. PMO must continue to labor on improving agro-sector productivity and removing obstacles to investment, to encroach on levels of poverty much more intensely.

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