THIS year’s Budget Speech presented to Parliament on Thursday, 8 June, had what we are used to hearing year in year out: higher prices for beer, soft drinks, cigarettes, higher this, higher that.
However, at least one Budget measure came as a surprise for many people. The Good Citizen on Saturday (10 June) had this front page news item titled: “Too early to celebrate Budget, experts warn”.
According to the writer, “the Budget also came as an early Christmas present to Tanzanian motorists who will no longer have to pay the annual motor vehicle licence fee”. This tax was extremely unpopular with motorists.
You had to pay it (many times with heavy penalties) whether your vehicle was grounded or not. If you had two vehicles, one of which was grounded, tax authorities could impound your serviceable vehicle to force you to pay for the grounded one.
Traffic police were also suspected of utilizing late payment of the fee to extort unofficial payments into their pockets.
Still, it is a surprise that such an assured revenue source could be abandoned, when in fact the government needs every penny it can get its hand on, although some analysts have hailed the transfer of this tax to petrol and kerosene, which will see everybody paying and not just motorists.
However, according to the Citizen on Saturday’s article: “Experts have warned that it is too early to give the full ‘thumps up” to the widely-praised 2017/18 national budget”.
“Thumps up?” What is “thumps up”? The peoples of Southern Africa have this accent when you listen to them speaking, where “b” is pronounced as a heavy “p”.
Thus you will hear somebody referring to a heavy traffic jam as vehicles moving “pampa to pampa” (as in pamper) meaning “bumper to bumper” that is vehicles moving along a road at a snail-slow speed with hardly any space between them.
Was our writer suffering from a Southern African experience? For, we do not say “thumps up”, but “thumbs up”. So what does “thumbs up” mean? “Thumbs-up” or “thumbs-down” is a common hand gesture achieved by a closed fist held with the thumb extended upward or downward in approval or disapproval of something, respectively.
The gesture has become some sort of a metaphor in English to express approval or disapproval, irrespective of whether the gesture is actually made.
For example, in the ongoing saga in the country about gold exports and what should be paid to the government, we could say that the owners of Acacia have given the thumbs-up to negotiations to take place between Barrick Gold and the Government of Tanzania so as to arrive at a win-win situation for all parties.
Likewise, if you are happy with Dr Phillip Mpango, the Finance Minister’s Budget, you will give it the thumbs up (not ‘the thumps up’), although, as we have seen above, some experts have warned that it is too early to do that.
They are lamenting that agriculture and water sectors, for example, have been given relatively little; and also that the scrapping of the annual road licence fee and shifting it to fuel is tantamount to punishing the poor who will see a rise in the cost of living.
Clearly those who are not happy with the Budget can be expected to give it a thumbs-down. And to catch up with modern developments, we are told that “Thumbs Up” was approved as part of Unicode 6.0 in 2010 under the name “Thumbs Up Sign” and added to Emoji 1.0 in 2015.
But let us not throw away “thump” empty handed. If you are implicated in the ongoing gold exports saga, your heart is possibly thumping, which means you can feel it beating very fast, because you are really worried about what will happen in the future.
In such circumstances, your head may be thumping as well, meaning you have a painful headache. To end up, it is possible that our hearts will be thumping with excitement as we look out for the crescent moon next weekend to signal the end of the holy month.