ANALYSIS: Delays at Dar port: How Tanzania wrecks a common EAC vision with ingrained public sector prerogatives THISDAY CORRESPONDENT Dar es Salaam THE capacity-cum-administrative situation at the port of Dar es Salaam has now begun to attract the attention, and worried representations of Rwanda and Burundi. They have been complaining that Dar es Salaam port was becoming either unpredictable in how it handles their cargo, or in a way predictable, as a sore to their economic activity, such that in many areas they wish to shift to the port of Mombasa, which is more distant and thus costly, but avoid the confusion at the Dar es Salaam port. Is this situation related to the battle concerning the Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS) contract? Is someone out to create conditions for the returning of the terminal to the port authorities soon? Such a situation can be figured out because the recent rise in prices of oil, or rather failure to bring down oil prices in tandem with the steep decline in crude oil prices led rather quickly to moves by Ewura, the body charged with regulating water and energy prices commercially, to seek to impose price controls. There is already a bill that has been approved by Parliament, under which the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) will start to control petroleum imports, and the failure to bring down oil prices now makes that scenario as common sense, and thus the same can be expected at the port. The piling up of containers shows that TICTS has failed to deliver, in which case the contract is up for its cancellation. Incidentally, it is unclear if World Bank experts on privatization are following up the Tanzanian case, or they mix it with other developing countries experiences in privatization, for it is unlikely that in these other states as well, most privatizations fail and have to be repeated, after the public sector comes in and repeats its old mess. That is what happened with TTCL, then ATCL, and now it appears TRL is in line for a new privatization or return to the lamentable public sector situation of the past, while TICTS contract will also be cancelled so that the old port situation comes back, with its customs department now back to normal at TRA now that its old zeal is gone. Complaints about intense corruption surfaced in the past year, but they died off. The Minister for Transport, Posts and Communication of the Republic of Burundi, Mr Philippe Njoni and the Minister for Infrastructure from Rwanda, Eng. Linda Bihire said this during their official tour at the Dar es Salaam port that the port was now nagging at government and commerce in the two countries, and were hoping that things could be rectified this side of the matter. Were either of the two governments in charge, it is likely it would find a solution to the problem, but since the port is fully an internal matter, all they can do is to raise their voices so that authorities here can comprehend that the matter is urgent, and work to sort out the issues - but instead, they will be bogged down trying to undermine TICTS. Mr Njoni noted that delays in the clearance of goods was nagging at the countrys economy, as Dar es Salaam port plays a big role in the Burundi economy. Most goods from and to Burundi pass through this port but its goods are increasingly being delayed; a situation which appeared rather perplexing to the minister, urging that the clearing period should be decreased. Cargo including agricultural chemicals and food for refugees should be spending little time at the port, he said, without actually taking note of the fact that TRA methods were to blame for much of it, since it is putting up onerous checks on destination of goods, to check resales for instance of petroleum, intensifying the level of checks done on containers. At a certain point of the reform process at the Dar es Salaam port, it was being heard that it sought to imitate large ports in the world with record time clearances, as well as ensure that it competes effectively with the Kenyan port of Mombasa, especially in relation to transit trade. It can be said that these objectives were mutually competing during the third phase presidency, which was fully immersed in a contradiction, of a stated reform orientation and assiduous cultivation of national interests in whatever issue came up to act. At times, under World Bank pressure for instance, the third phase forced itself to act rightly, for instance it sold NBC shares at 70 per cent, as well the buildings on which the NBC headquarters stand, unlike in other cases like ATC where it sold 49 per cent, and TRL it sold 51 per cent but without the buildings or land plots. Since the end of the third phase government, it appears that the TRA objective of largest collections of revenue have outdistanced other port strategies or targets, and it is thus apparently surrendering in competing with Mombasa. When ministers have to come to Dar es Salaam to complain about clearance at the port, what remains of what decisions their private sector importers, as well as public sector bodies, will be doing in relation to using the Dar es Salaam port? And when one also adds the bitterness in Parliament concerning lengthening the TICTS contract by 15 years even before the contracted 10 years were over, and certain quarters are bent to ensure that this is reversed as the original contract has expired, is it in many MPs interests, or the port authority, or TRA, that TICTS should be seen to have performed well? So who will solve the problems? The Burundian minister noted that clearance delays at the Dar es Salaam port were causing the price of products to be hiked when they arrived in Burundi to compensate for extra charges that the importers pay at the port, citing refugees as compelled to face acute food shortages. Despite that Burundi traders have no other options than using the Dar es Salaam port since it is closer to country if compared to Mombasa, it was thinking of the other port as an alternative. But that would be a difficult decision as costing for instance of fuel passing through the Dar es Salaam port is cheaper and affordable, unlike fuels imported through the Mombasa port. What was unclear in all this exchange is whether the fact that the three countries along with Kenya and Uganda belong to the East African Community makes a difference, or is relevant to discussion on the issue. Even if the minister(s) said nothing on the issue, it isnt hard to figure out that none of this is relevant on the Tanzanian side, as the countrys political psychology is incompatible with being a team player in the regional context, which means being prepared for trade offs, like less controls at the port in order to speed up movement of goods and make integration prospects better, and the port more competitive. There is no end-effect thinking in Tanzanias tax collection philosophy, that a better environment for local and transit business later pays off in revenue from higher economic dynamism. The totality of taxation thinking is tied to immediate sources; monthly figures keep rising, as governance liturgy. So it can be projected that owing to infighting at the top levels of public authorities concerning the role of the container terminal contracted firm, as well as pivotal measures for maximization (or TRA would say it rather is optimalisation) of revenue collection, little can be done to save clearing time at the port. And underlining the situation is Tanzanias lack of faith in business as such, that is, in the private sector, and belief that greater achievements in revenue collection, under the strictest conditions at the port if need be, is what good governance means in that context. In other words, as it was the case when the old East African Community neared its collapse, Tanzanias public sector prerogatives prove incompatible with integration in similar manner as its positions on labour, capital, goods flow.