Damas Makangale The Express Thu, March/04/2010 A man resorts to sheer muscles to secure a place in a daladala at the bustling Congo Street, Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam With election bells ringing and the ruling party CCM pacing the political arena up and down to coax the electorate, the naked truth that has downed is that the countrys flagship anti-poverty economic vehicle MKUKUTA is but a white elephant unlikely to deliver. As the government is preparing the second phase of the National Strategy for Economic Growth and Reduction of Poverty, MKUKUTA, academicians and ordinary citizens have criticized the strategy as incapable of revising the current abject poverty in the country. Dr Haji Semboja, Senior Economist and Research Fellow at the University of Dar es Salaam (told The Express in an exclusive interview that Tanzania is not poor but its people are ignorant and negligent. I am saying that Tanzania is not poor at all but people of this country cannot think properly how to use their natural resources, he said. Dr Semboja said indebted poor countries such as Tanzania cannot overcome their poverty until they learn how to effectively use their mental resources to bring about social and economic development. He said the Government is wasting time and resources on implementation of Mkukuta, as by concentrating on the initiatives framework, it was leaving important issues for the countrys development unattended to. A leading economic researcher, he elaborated further that government officials were paying to much attention on how to fight malaria, while skipping most important areas for national progress. He further noted that Mkukuta is a mere strategy on papers that was first adopted from the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP), which was created by the international community. Dr Semboja added the international community through donors cannot assist Tanzania to overcome poverty, something that will pave the way for the country to effectively enter the global capital market. He said donors are putting pressure on the government to concentrate on malaria, HIV/Aids and other minor issues, using the same opportunity to steal the countrys resources such as minerals. Dr Semboja clarified the Kilimo Kwanza initiative was a clear manifestation of how the government was dilly-dallying in the fight against poverty across the country. He said the government does not have a clear focus on its strategies in alleviating poverty situation in Tanzania. It is a surprise that in this decade Tanzania is thinking to eradicate malaria and ignorance, while other are dwelling on industrial development, he emphasized Dr Semboja pointed out that higher authorities in the government should spend more time on domestic issues instead of traveling around soliciting aid. He called upon His Excellency President Jakaya Kikwete to concentrate on sustainable exploitation of natural resources instead of seeking support from the international community. Commenting on the same, Rogers Ipengwe from the Bank of Tanzania said Tanzania needed at least a decade of sustainable and solid economic growth to help lift the people from poverty and improve basic facilities. He noted that this could be achieved by focusing on policy direction and increasing the pace on MKUKUTA objectives implementation. He said Tanzania was unlikely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, as the number of people living below the poverty line keeps increasing every year, due to poor implementation of key objectives of MKUKUTA. Ipegwe pointed out that the 2007 Household Budget Survey (HBS) indicated that some 12.9 million Tanzanians lived below the poverty line compared to 11.4 million during the 2000 / 01 period. The survey points out that the MDGs for health, gender equality and hunger are lagging behind. Due to population growth rate, poverty remains overwhelming with some 83 per cent individuals living below the basic needs benchmark in rural areas as compared to urban areas, he said. Says the Sadick Mapezi , prominent businessman: Unless the government takes a change in policy direction and increase the pace of MKUKUTA implementation, objectives enshrined in the MDGs will be at risk. He adds: Most of Tanzanians still depend on agriculture which is the backbone of the economy, but the survey indicated that its importance has declined because of poor implementation of some key areas of MKUKUTA. The HBS indicated that involvement in agriculture has declined to 57 per cent from 62 per cent in 2000 / 01 among active members (15-60 years). The report stated that cash income continued to be largely through agricultural products, with food crops dominating, providing the main source of cash income for 40 per cent of households. The HBS also showed that around 87 per cent of rural households were reported to own land for agriculture, slightly smaller than the proportion reported in 2000/01. The mean of the acreage of land owned in rural areas appears to have declined from 6 to 5 acres. Ownership of specialized agriculture equipment continues to be very low as there has not been much headway in mechanism, highlights part of the survey. In line with shrinking land for agriculture in rural areas, livestock ownership has also declined substantially since 2000/01, following hard droughts. Some 68 per cent of employed adults are engaged in agriculture, livestock and forestry. According to the Premier Mizengo Pinda, the agriculture sector lacks enough investment and technical equipment, despite its importance in providing a living to a big percentage of Tanzanians. Pinda acknowledges that more strength is needed towards boosting agriculture, especially in rural areas which area which is the focus for farming, cattle-rearing and horticulture. We need to develop economic policies while placing special attention on income-generating activities in rural areas that can benefit the poor, says the premier. According to a Dar es Salaam-based social scientist , Michael Ndumila another setback towards poverty reduction is complete lack of essential services and other crucial support in rural areas. Poverty continues to be rife because the progress in Tanzania's economy has been uneven and many of the poorest citizens have seen little or no improvement in their quality of life, he explains. The HBS showed that poverty is strongly related to education, with the poor are still less likely to send their children to school than the affluent. Poorest households have seen a rise in education participation rate of more than 30 percentage points between 2000/01 and 2007, states the HBS. The survey also mentions health as another challenge where poor households remain less likely to consult doctors when sick, although they make greater use of government health services. In addition, the poor are less-connected to the electricity grid, with the limited extension of the power grid largely benefiting the rich people.