Is privatisation “the engine of economic growth’? No!

Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

THIS newspaper has this week published a landmark front-page news story. This was this Wednesday’s edition of the Daily News, which story I have concluded is a landmark one; given its political and economic dimensions of the thrust of this country from an economic level.

For our fifth President of this country, Dr John Magufuli, who many of us his countrymen are happy with in reasserting the country’s sovereignty over its natural resources has even gone further in making a self-criticism of the country’s past on the privatisation agenda.

This newspaper quoted the President in a front-page lead story as faulting the privatisation policy of the country in the 1990s as having “failed the nation completely”. For those who missed the story, here are excerpts: “Addressing Itigi residents in Manyoni district, Singida Region on his last day of a marathon working tour upcountry, Dr Magufuli said by privatising its own firms, the government had effectively entered into agreement with what he described as overseas conmen.

“I cannot blame those who privatised our firms, but I can equally not keep quiet,” the newspaper quoted the President as telling a cheering crowd, adding: “I want those who privatised our factories and other state-owned firms to remember that they committed sins and should know that there is someone revealing their sins.

” This newspaper proceeded to quote the President as revealing that over 197 factories that were privatised were currently not around. Dr Magufuli said Europeans had lied to the former leaders of this country that privatisation policy was good; which stance they were not pushing in their own countries.

Official statistics show that some 274 state firms had been privatised by 2012. Among these, 95 were in the agricultural sector, 94 in industry, 23 in infrastructure, 34 in Natural Resources and Tourism, 15 in the energy and mineral sector and 13 in other sectors, according to this newspaper. According to the President, in Germany for example, railways are state owned but Europeans wanted the Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL) privatized.

This newspaper revealed that a report by the now defunct Consolidated Holding Corporation (CHS) before it was disbanded in 2014 had indicated that 40 state-owned firms had been lined up for privatization.

Among them were the National Bank of Commerce (NBC), National Insurance Corporation, Air Tanzania Company Ltd (ATCL), the Tanzania Communication Company Ltd (TTCL), Tanzania Postal Corporation and the Kiwiri Coal Mine which firms are today surging forward very strong - un-privatized.

Having thus depicted the overall economic landmark, this newspaper quoted the President as saying had the country earlier rejected the privatization agenda as imposed by the West, nobody could now be struggling to revamp the industrial sector to transform the country into an industrial economy.

“If there are any mistakes that were made as I have pointed them out, it is about time I personally rectified them because you elected me to become your President and I am not sure if my successor will be able to face this challenge,” this newspaper has quoted the President as saying. As eluded at the outset of this perspective, this story as published by this newspaper this week is a landmark story. But it is a pointer both to the courage of the current President in office - to reveal what this country has been subjected in the past.

Those who have been around since the founding Administration of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere would agree that in spite of the country’s early post independence bottlenecks, there was clearly significant progress in so far as industrialisation was concerned.

In only the first two decades of national independence we had seen the rise of industries and factories here reflective of the country’s agricultural potential. Instead of petty traders lining up the streets of our major towns selling second hand clothes and other petty goods as is the case today, jobs were assured for most Tanzanian youths, being allocated jobs right at the conclusion of their schooling as opposed to today.

Actually, serious people know that this country is today facing a time bomb given the escalating gap between the haves and have-nots in this country due to lack of productive undertakings.

Clearly, as enticed by the President, the privatization agenda in the subsequent post-Nyerere administrations were not voluntarily embraced; they were pushed into the throats of our leaders as a quid pro quo for western economic support, hence the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) quid pro quos.

If privatisation was really the “engine of economic growth” how is our lot today? Are we any better off? Effectively, the dos and don’ts by some of the Europeans and their institutions literally gagged our mouths and eyes which resulted into our failure, for instance, to see the looting of our minerals that had taken place starting eighteen years ago with the mineral sand that was being shipped out of the country with wanton abandon.

So really, in a sense, we are lucky with the assumption of office of President John Joseph Pombe Magufuli who is seeing this game being played on us very clearly and have the courage to speak out. As a people, we need to support him massively and publicly to continue the struggle to a victorious end.

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