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War against poverty demands longer time There seems to be a long way to go for Tanzania in eradicating poverty in both urban and rural areas. But how long is the long way asks Our Staff Writer Ludger Kasumuni as Tanzania marks the Poverty Week. Hamis Ngosha, an elderly peasant living in Mwongozo village the outskirts of Dar es Salaam in Kigamboni area, makes a living on growing sweet potatoes. His problem is not the market. It is the old age that is taking its toll on his energy. Season in season out, his means of addressing his poverty issues are on the decline. Old age let alone, even if he had the energy, the land at his disposal is now half of what he used to possess years back. Income poverty forced him to sell half of this ten-acre fertile land in the village in order to meet his daily subsistence expenditure requirements. Mzee Ngosha is not alone. Statistical findings from research undertaken under the sponsorship of the Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA) non-government organization indicate that there is millions of his kind in Tanzania; especially in the rural areas. Absolute poverty, according to REPOA researchers is the failure to attain even a minimum level of income. For them people living under absolute poverty, normally earn less than one US Dollar a day. In Tanzanian terms, when looking at the poverty issue, we have to go beyond these so-called international elevations. It is from such an angle that we can provide local solutions. One aspect worth consideration when discussing our poverty situation is access to the normal three means a day? Today there are people who go without even a single good meal a day. People, who do not have certainty of even getting their meals in a day like Ngosha, also include those people lacking safety nets against poverty. And according to another non- government organization, the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), this is mainly due to the disintegration of the traditional social safety nets against poverty like the extended families under which the elderly and physically incapacitated persons were ably taken care of. Poverty has been an agenda of the colonial as it has been with the successive national governments. Thus the dawn of independence was the government declaring the three major national enemies as poverty, ignorance and disease. And come retired presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin William Mkapa, the story was the same. Today, under President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, the song or rather challenge is the same. And it will be the same for many centuries to come. So as we mark the Poverty Week in Tanzania, it should suffice to measure the level of performance of the government in power against the anti-poverty policies in force. This brings into focus the on-going implementation of the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP) popularly known even among the foreign development partners and donors after its Kiswahili acronym, MKUKUTA. The first MKUKUTA Cluster focuses on growth and reduction of poverty and goal one dwells on ensuring sound economic management. According to the Status Report 2006 on one year implementation of MKUKUTA, the overall assessment of Cluster one indicates some progress, but the rate of growth needs to be accelerated. The Status Report also says that a more strategic and prioritized approach is required to generate broad-based growth, particularly in agriculture. According to Views of the People Survey, it was found that fewer adult Tanzanians think that they are enjoying the fruits of economic growth. While 24% of adult respondents recorded improvements in their economic situation in the last three years, 26% reported stagnation, and a half (50%) reported deterioration, in both urban and rural areas. About 33% of young respondents consider their economic situation to have deteriorated over the last three years, while 26% see an improvement. Young female respondents were more likely to identify ‘no improvements’ than young males (82% versus 75% respectively). Looked at simply, it can be stated that there is no single prescription to cure this chronic disease, poverty. There is even no single vaccine to avert the spread of poverty in the society, researchers say. The Project Syndicate journal based in Czechoslovakia has quoted the American Professor of Economics, Jeffrey Sachs, as attacking the rich nations for ignoring their promises to assist poor nations like Tanzania to reduce poverty. In his book titled: The End of Poverty, Prof. Sachs, who is the Executive Director of Earth Institute at Columbia University, argues that as long as the rich countries fail to fulfill their promise of disbursing 0.7% of their national incomes as aid to poor countries, the poverty problem will continue to persist. At the start of the new millennium, world leaders got together to adopt the Millennium Development Goals, the global commitment to halve extreme poverty by 2015, he says. Prof. Sachs reveals that even the most powerful nation, the United States has failed to honor her promise of disbursing 0.7% of its Gross National Product (GNP). In fact, US Official Development Assistance (ODA) amounts to just 0.15 per cent of America’s GNP, which is less than one-fourth of the global target, he argues. This contrasts with the 4 per cent of GNP that the US spends on its military, roughly $500 billions this year. So the US spends around thirty times more on the military than it does on peaceful development aid for the poorest countries,’’ he says. This is also a challenge to local researchers on poverty reduction and other stakeholders on poverty agenda, that aid is not an effective approach of eradicating poverty as it is tied with conditionality and is not forthcoming in accordance with the rhetoric promises. Back to the national performance on poverty reduction, the Status Report shows that there is improvement in using participatory approach and subsequent results in increase in income poverty in terms of increase in the real GDP Growth from 4.2% to 6.8% between 1996 and 2005. It projects last year's real GDP growth to go beyond 7% against the previous year's 5.9 per cent. The report is, however, pessimistic about the national economy target of growing into a middle income country as envisaged in the National Development Vision 2025. This demands an annual growth rate of close to 10%, according to the report. But on the overall, there is an optimistic view that the goal of ensuring sound economic stability is on the right track. Assessment shows that there is continued economic stability despite higher government expenditures, adverse weather conditions and increased oil prices. Moreover, the report indicates that during the last quarter of 2005 and into 2006, sustained drought and higher oil prices led to an increase in inflation at the rate of 6.5% by March 2006. The report shows positive indicators for sound economic management namely increase in government domestic revenue collection from 12.2% of the GDP in 2000/01 to 13.1% in 2004/05 and a decline in fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP from 6.6 in 2005/06 to five per cent in 2006/07. Other indicators include the fall in external debt service as a percentage of exports from 17.3 in 2000 to 11.5% in 2005 and increase in exports as a percentage of GDP by 0.6 percent, from 23.1 in 2004 to 23.7 percent in 2005. The rise is the result of increased export earnings both from traditional agricultural exports, the value of which rose by 19% compared with 2004, and non- traditional exports, such as gold that increased to US Dollars 655.5 million in 2005. However, the Status Report cautions that sound economic management must examine not only exports, but also balance of trade, since the negative balance on goods and services is offset to a large extent by foreign aid. This requires the management of aid flows, the exchange rate and the foreign reserve position, the report says. But for the ordinary people like the famous Machinga and Mama Lishe, who survive on the informal sector, these positive indicators are yet to translate in their household incomes. Fatma Saleh, a Mama Lishe living in the squatter Dar es Salaam suburb of Buguruni, complains of skyrocketing prices of consumer goods. This eats into her minimal profits accruing from her food vending business. ESRF and other poverty analysis experts say that Tanzania has still got a long way to go towards translating the rise in national income at the macro level into the micro-level allowing a meaningful war against poverty to take place in society.
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