AS we head to the campaign season, between July and October is time to reflect on the performance of councillors, Members of Parliament and the President over the last five years.
This is an important period where we, as Tanzanians, must analyze parties and candidates who seek the mandate to lead for another five-year term. We need to use our eyes to look at what has happened, our ears to listen to proposed plans from aspirants and their parties’ manifestos, and our minds to make judgment come October.
As we begin with looking around and what has happened in terms of administration, I can say for the first time in the recent history of our country, as Tanzanians we have seen that the government today is indeed a group of hard working people who are there to serve the interest of the nation and of the people, and not a group of lazy people whose first priority is personal gain.
In the last five years our President himself has not only demonstrated that leadership is not an opportunity for personal gain, but even those whom he has appointed in different capacities have been made to follow that path.
This was especially evident when he immediately fired and replaced some of his appointees who had gone against his instructions, or failed to produce expected results. That is not only evident from the top government officials, but also among low ranking officers from whom most ordinary Tanzanians seek daily social services.
It is possible that some people may argue these are trivial things, that they do not impact people’s lives, and perhaps it would be better to give an assessment of more practical issues.
Maybe this can be the argument from a person who has not suffered the pain of being told to come next week for medical treatment that requires immediate attention, or from one who has not been asked or forced to pay someone to do the job they’re paid to do in the first place.
But even if we choose to assess the performance from the physical infrastructure which many associate with progress and development, we can see progress in our big lakes of Victoria, Nyasa and Tanganyika. Water transport in which people were forced to board antiquated vessels travelling with their lives in hand, consists of luxurious ships which operate at reasonable rates.
We can also see our national airline returned to the sky and new airports being built. We can also look at strategic infrastructure projects such as the construction of the hydro power dam of Stiglers Gorge, the Standard Gauge Railway from Dar es Salaam to Makutupora (soon to be extended to Mwanza), the construction of paved roads and bridges.
We have also seen what is happening in social services like schools where enrolment levels and the learning environment has greatly improved. In health care we see an increase in the construction of decent health facilities and hospitals. It is clear that there are vivid examples of progress.
So as we look at our country in comparison with other fastest-growing economies in the world, we can certainly say that our country is on the right track. For those like me who have been watching China’s rapid development, I see many similarities to the years after China opened its economy.
Major electricity projects like the Three Gorges Dam have propelled industrial development and addressed the problem of the cost and availability of electricity for China. This is what projects like Stiglers Gorge can do to Tanzania.
If you look at infrastructure projects such as railways and roads you will see that China laid a solid foundation for such projects and now has an intricate transport network reaching every corner of the country. We see our country moving in this direction, too.
The foundation of China’s now famous “workshop of the world” label, was built through massive investments in strategic projects. We can see these investments in Tanzania today. However, we should not fool ourselves into thinking we are anywhere close to where we need to be in terms of socio-economic development.
Overall we still lag behind in many areas even compared to some of our neighbours, and there is still a lot of work to do. A great lesson and one that we need to think carefully about during this campaign season is the issue of continuity and consistency.
The progress made in the past five years will only be meaningful if we can build on it. China’s rapid development is mainly based on consistency and continuity. For more than 40 years, macroeconomic policies have been strictly enforced, no matter what phase of leadership came into power.
This is one lesson we can learn from China, and should be in our minds when we asses those who seek the mandate to lead in the coming elections. We should also keep in mind that throughout the five-year period of this administration, one thing we have seen from leaders from national to district level is the prioritisation of development and people’s interests.
In various speeches that the president has been giving, and on various occasions when swearing in his appointees he has repeated the words “serve the people”.
So when reflecting on the government’s work over the past five years, we have to ask ourselves if it has indeed been a successful period, and whether it has been a period in which we can say that the policies implemented have directly addressed our concerns.
The answers to these questions are obvious. It is only right to demand more of what we have seen, and at an even faster pace.
Fadhili Mpunji is based in Beijing, China and works for China Radio International (CRI)