‘Why majority of Tanzanians are impoverished in a Wealthy Country and How to eradicate Poverty’
Zitto Kabwe, MP
I use the term The Bottom 30M to paraphrase Paul Collier’s Bottom Billion. This article has been motivated by the article I read from The Citizen on Saturday of 9th June, 2012. The article (Tanzania: Don’t leave your rural world behind) authored by Jacques Morisset, an economist from The World Bank explains the obvious and answers the fundamental question, ‘why is Tanzania poor’.
The Bottom 30M: Rural Tanzania
Almost 30 million Tanzanians are left out of Tanzania’s success story because the economic growth has never been inclusive. The policies of economic development adopted by Tanzania as directed and supported by the Bretton Woods institutions is the main cause of this skewed growth.
For the last 10 years, a decade, of adopting Poverty Reduction Strategies (MKUKUTA I, II and now III) Tanzania has recorded a remarkable economic growth rates but with a puzzling outcome, because the majority still live in poverty. In 2011 the Poverty and Human Development Report (PHDR), the first statement recognizes this paradox of ‘a growing economy with increasing poverty’ and that of growth without jobs. One can claim that the bottom 30 millions Tanzanians are poor because the policy makers wanted it be.
Why are the majority of Tanzanians still poor?
Government reports as well as various research findings show that the poor live in rural Tanzania. The Household Budget survey of 2007 shows that 37% of the people living in rural areas are living below the poverty line, only 2% of the people have access to electricity and less than 40% have access to water supply. The Uwezo report ‘are our children learning‘ of 2011 shows that children from poor families do not get educated and for those in standard three in primary schools, only 3 out of 10 can answer a standard two question. This is a clear indication that the poor potentially get poorer and inequality widens.
Lifting poverty levels in the rural area could potentially improve even the welfare of urban community. Statistics show that majority of young people migrate to urban towns every day in search of greener pastures. However, it is clear from my explanations above, these young people would arrive in urban areas without sufficient job skills, without proper economic potentials and therefore this breeds another life of misery. It is not rocket science to link the high unemployment in our towns and cities and the increase in criminal activities such as drug trafficking, prostitution etc. The point I am driving home here is, it is in our best interest to improve the welfare of the rural majority in order to ensure peace and tranquility even to those who live in urban areas.
Why is poverty a rural phenomenal?
Mr. Morisset again states the obvious. Agricultural growth in Tanzania has been flat. Since Agriculture is the dominant sector in rural areas, then rural economy’s growth rate has been flat over the last decade. While we recognize record growth of Tanzanian economy, only a quarter has felt the growth leaving the rest living below the poverty line, for the last 10 years. This has happened because of poor and extractive policies on Agriculture (bureaucratic and corrupt crop boards, roadblocks, export bans on agriculture produce), inadequate rural infrastructure ( irrigation, roads, energy and water supply) and a lack of focus ( leadership being distracted to lucrative rent generating sectors like mining and later telecom). In many sense, our leadership decided to leave the rural behind. Tanzania chose to have the Rural poor. Rural Development has never been on top of the agenda of the Government of Tanzania since 1985. Rural Tanzania is poor because post Mwalimu governments have made a consisous decision for it t be that way.
We in the opposition have been tirelessly working on bringing the plight of the rural people on the agenda for some time. Our last shadow budget put forward pioneering spending plan to address growth constraints in rural areas whereby TZS 150bn would be spent annually for three consecutive years. Targeted areas for this spending plan would be; rural roads, rural energy and rural water supply (including irrigation infrastructure). We went further to propose for the formulation of the rural development policy and establishment under the Office of the Prime Minister the Rural Development Authority with mandate to monitor initiatives and removing constraints to growth of the rural economy. This Authority would really do what Mr. Morisset suggests, the two models to propel the rural economy which are contract-farming monitoring and regulating and advancement IT use to rural areas.
These policy shift and initiatives would be empathized again in the 2012/2013 shadow Budget as we did last year. The government must spend enough money in rural investments as the shadow budget as we have prioritized. Low integration of the rural economy to the national economy makes poor people poorer compounded by the fact they will continue to sell their produce pegged at rural prices and buy their consumables at urban prices hit by inflation.
The proposals we have offered are hardly efforts to invent the wheel, it is based on our already existing infrastructure for the rural majority. We have Institute of Planning (Chuo cha Mipango) which its primary objective is to train village managers. We should put incentive for our rural managers to work and live there.
We are being faced by Tanzania with two sides, one for the rich (mainly urban) and the other for the poor (rural) and this is not acceptable. Mwalimu Nyerere warned about this in the Arusha Declaration and it is happening in our time. The Bottom 30m Tanzanians living in villages must be uplifted through inclusive growth policies less of extractive nature existing presently. The so called Maisha Bora kwa kila Mtanzania is meaningless if it caters only for the top 15 million and leaves behind The Bottom 30 millions.
The government must raise more domestic revenues from mining, telecom and now increasingly Oil and Gas sectors to finance rural development, Increasing agriculture productivity and hence cut poverty. Once we achieve agricultural growth rate of 6% and above, we would start seeing rural poverty ending. This can be done in our life time. These targets are achievable, What is needed is leadership.