Monday, November 12, 2007

Financial Times reviews Tanzania

In a recent article, the Financial Times gives a good overview of trends in Tanzanian development. It asks the question that many ask – why does Tanzania languish in poverty, given the natural resources and foreign aid it has received?

They note that Tanzania is
Rich in farm land, mineral resources and wildlife, it is free of tribal tensions and has experienced a series of peaceful transitions of power, thanks to a sense of unity forged by Julius Nyerere, its founding father. It also has a stable macro-economic environment and its administration is relatively well-organised: the principal achievements of Benjamin Mkapa, who ruled from 1995 to 2005.

The article notes that the current government's biggest achievement
. . . has probably been the introduction of universal primary education: more schools have been built in the past 18 months than in the previous 20 to 30 years, say officials, although there are now not enough teachers.

And they comment that
. . . In the United Nations' human development index, which measures standards of living and health as well as education, Tanzania has barely moved.

The following statistics reveal the depth of Tanzanian poverty.

According to the last national household survey, conducted in 2000-01, almost one in five people was receiving less than the minimum calorie requirements. More recent government research showed two-thirds of mainland households did not have access to piped water and 89 per cent were without electricity. The country's adult HIV/Aids infection rate is 6.5 per cent and in some regions hits 15 to 20 per cent.

In her 2007-08 budget speech, Zakia Hamdani, the finance minister, said the resources needed for the implementation of the previous administration's growth and poverty reduction strategy - known as Mkukuta - "were immensely large compared with the resources available".

Zakia Hamdani

One explanation for the lack of economic development is the culture of corruption that affects all levels of life in Tanzania. Gemma's book, St Jude's, describes some of her encounters with corrupt practices.

The Financial Times report notes that
Critics contend that Tanzania lacks political accountability, which means people in power are isolated from the masses. One manifestation of the problem is corruption. Suspicions of high-level graft were stoked by several multimillion-dollar projects that pre-dated the Kikwete era: the acquisition of a presidential jet; the building of a new Bank of Tanzania headquarters; and the purchase of a military radar system from BAE Systems. No wrongdoing, however, has been proved.

The current government seems to be ready to tackle corruption to some extent, and several high-ranking members of the dominant political party, CCM, have been arrested on corruption charges Mr Kikwete says: "If people want to get into leadership through corrupt practices, through corrupt means, I think that's detestable. We have to take action."

A bright spot is the increasing force shown by Tanzanian newspapers, which have become increasingly aggressive in their reporting. The number and prominence of civil society organisations is growing.

As I have mentioned before, donor countries are becoming tougher by tying their funds to improvements in anti-corruption practices. The Financial Times article quotes a Norwegian embassy official as noting the intent to take a firmer line on corruption.

Inch by inch, improvements are becoming evident.

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