<<That I was given to understand Tanzania was thriving.>>  

<<It seemed to have strangled the economy, and failed to deliver the benefits to the masses other than providing high levels of ideological oxygen.>> 

<<From your perspective though, as you have seen the days of the butter, so to speak, and multiculturalism, how noticeable has been the decline.>> 

On this eve of our independence day anniversary I see from my balcony a cobbler sweating out on the pavement, a couple of cart pullers awaiting prospective customers and a maid carrying a bucket of water over her head stumbling and taking a pause. At the end of the day they will collect Shs 1000 to 2000 ($1or 2) and walk a distance of 4 to 5 kilometers to their huts in the shanty Manzese or Magomeni for a scarce meal with their families. On the other hand from the opposite building appears a 'bwana' who drives away in his Mercedez Benz, and another with a tennis racket in his hand speeds away in his Toyota Corolla to the Gymkhana ground. I look upwards for a just equation from the Almighty in this contrasting situation. 

Indeed, President Mkapa's economic policy seems to have gained world wide acclaim and Tanzania's coffers may be growing up but the crux of the matter is the sad plight of the masses. In no way has their suffering alleviated, in fact worsened. 

There is a general belief that privatization of public institutions and the influx of modern technology results in prosperity but not necessarily. The foreign investors and those with means have exploited the situation to suit their needs and motives. They form a minority but the majority live below poverty line. Minimum wage is mere Shs. 48,000 ($45) and with soaring inflation purchasing power has dwindled considerably, for the prices of bare necessities keep rising day by day. Not to be outdone National Housing has raised the rentals and TANESCO its electricity rates. Unemployment is on a large scale and robbery rampant. The gap between have and have nots keeps widening. 

Some blame Nyerere for nurturing his socialist ideology that hindered the pace of the economy. He could have been wrong in his expectations and assumptions. Certainly his plan of self reliance did not fit in with the bulk of Tanzanians who were lay people. 

Nyerere embarked upon his socialistic ways in the post independence phase with the nationalization of the banks. He followed it up by nationalizing houses. H.H.the Agakhan whose IPS had come up with various projects was forced to retreat. That put a halt to the flow of investments. The defunct East African Community also took its toll on the economy. The Asians started fleeing. Worse, exchange control was introduced. That was the beginning of the shilling's slide against the $ which till 1971 cost mere shs 7. Imports became rare and scarcity of essential items felt. This resulted in hoarding and corruption. The Ugandan war shattered the economy and the $ escalated badly. Mwalimu's socialist policy crumbled. A country rich in gold and diamonds queued up with a begging bowl for alms from the rich nations. 

The Mwinyi phase of the 80s and 90s will be remembered for its liberalization policy. Imports started afresh and Exchange Control was relaxed. Plots were allotted and new houses built. Rentals were quoted in $ and the currency escalated to new heights. Corruption which had gained ground during Nyerere's era became the name of the game. 

It was no smooth sailing for Mkapa when he took over from Mwinyi. In that respect he withstood the challenge and forged ahead. He resorted to privatization of public institutions and called for investments. The overall effect is evident. Sky scrapers adorn Daressalaam and modern technology thrives. Computers, internet, cell phones and cable net work have penetrated deep into the system. 

The mining and tourist industries made headway and the middlemen reaped rich harvest. Corruption goes unabated. The $ costs shs.1070 today. It is the wage and fixed income earners who have to bear the brunt of inflation.  They let go a meal and walk rather than take a bus ride to save a bit here and there. Schooling of children, hospitals and funerals are costly affairs. There is severe shortage of water, the basic necessity. The 43 years since independence have not been rosy for the masses. The root cause of this state of affairs has been corruption and maladministration. The colonialists will always be remembered for their firm administration. It is 43 years since they left, and we're yet to learn how to administer ourselves.



Last updated November 2007 Copyright Abdulrazak Fazal 2007 - All Rights Reserved