Thu 29 Mar 10:19PM
Chinese don tells JK painful truth on Dar
Thursday, 29 March 2012 08:42
By Ludger Kasumuni
President Jakaya Kikwete listens as Prof Li Xiaoyun of China addresses the 17th Annual Research Workshop in Dar es Salaam yesterday. Left is the chairperson of the Research on Poverty Alleviation (Repoa) board of directors, Prof Esther Mwaikambo.PHOTO | fidelis felix
Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s economic policies came under criticism yesterday, with two foreign professors saying they were more of rhetoric than actions.
The academics—Prof Do Duc Dinh from Vietnam and Prof Li Xiaoyun from China—said it would take many years for Tanzania’s economy to make tangible advances if the leadership continues on the path of talks, dialogue and paper work rather than concrete actions to implement plans that already exist.
They were speaking on the first day of the 17th Research on Poverty Alleviation (Repoa) annual conference in the presence of President Jakaya Kikwete.
The two dons told the audience that the national leadership had spent too much time talking and it was time they translated strategies into concrete actions to reduce poverty.
They are in Dar es Salaam as guests of an NGO think tank, which is holding its two-day annual workshop. This year’s theme is “Socio-economic transformation for reducing poverty”.
Prof Do, who is head of developing economies studies at the Vietnamese Institute of World Economy, told participants that his country’s strategy had been to lay emphasis on changing from a subsistence economy to a commodity-oriented one. Although Vietnam does not have enough opportunities to produce agricultural products, he added, they had managed to establish highly efficient cashew nut processing plants.
All of Tanzania’s cashew nut factories have collapsed, leaving farmers who produce the crop with nowhere to turn.
“At one time, you had 13 cashew nut processing plants but now you do not have one which is operational,” Prof Do said. “You have raw materials but you do not have factories.”
Post-war Vietnam has laid emphasis on producing and marketing commodities. “We embarked on privatisation carefully,” he added. “We did not carry out fast privatisation. I don’t accept the idea of ruthless privatisation.”
Even as Vietnam moved towards a market economy, the professor of economics said, the state had not retreated from development as is the case with a number of developing countries, especially in Africa.
Prof Li, the dean of the college of humanities and development at China Agricultural College in Beijing, said Tanzania has yet to translate its policies and promises of transforming agricultural sector into actions for taming poverty.
“Throughout 20 years, Tanzania has not reached meaningful transformation,” he said. “The economy has recently grown at seven per cent but there has been no transformation of the agriculture. There is no significant change.”
The Chinese academician added that sectors such as telecommunications and mining have grown very fast but are not linked with agriculture, which is the sector that employs most people.
There are disparities even within agriculture, where wheat farming is growing at nine per cent while the main food crop, maize, grows at four per cent. Cassava grows at a paltry two per cent.
It was not possible to reduce poverty while agriculture fails to feed Tanzanians at a low cost, he warned.
He further noted: “Your food prices are so high. I visited your country three years ago when the price of rice was Sh1,200 a kilogramme, but now it is Sh2,500. It is not possible to reduce labour costs in this situation.”
In his keynote address, President Kikwete conceded that poverty still haunts the majority of Tanzanians despite the fact that the economy is growing at seven per cent. In the meantime, the mining and mobile phones sectors are growing at more than 20 per cent.
The President added: “Despite the high growth rate, the rate of poverty reduction in Tanzania has not been as fast. Statistics indicate, for example, that from 2001-2007—the period when our economy was growing at very high rates by world standards—overall household poverty fell by a marginal rate of only two percent, from 35.7 percent to 33.6 per cent.”
The President said the country had implemented programmes for increasing economic growth and reducing poverty, such as Mkukuta and Vision 2025, which aim at turning Tanzania into a middle income country by increasing per capita income from the current $540 to $3,000 in 2025.
But there are challenges in transforming agriculture, the informal sector and small and medium-sized enterprises that have unaccounted wealth as people working in those sectors do not pay taxes.
Mr Kikwete added: “I have a pineapple farm in Bagamoyo. When I harvest, I sell one pineapple at the farm at Sh300. But I do not pay taxes. Even my teacher, Prof (Simon) Mbilinyi, has a farm but I think you do not pay taxes.”
The executive secretary of the planning commission, Dr Philip Mpango, said Tanzania should emulate oriental countries such as China, Vietnam and Malaysia and build visionary leadership.
It was also important, he added, to change the mindset of the people, deal decisively with corruption and reduce lavish spending.