Tanzania: 'Mwalimu's Msasani House Was Built With a Bank Loan'
The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)
The Citizen (Dar es Salaam)
28 November 2007
Posted to the web 28 November 2007
Dar es Salaam
Former chief secretary ambassador Paul Rupia granted our reporter Pius Rugonzibwa a rare interview in his office at the Sea View in Upanga East, Dar es Salaam. Their conversation:
QUESTION:How do you see Tanzania today as it looks forward to mark 46 years of independence?
ANSWER:Tanzania has changed a lot since independence; there are many changes, in my opinion, when one looks at various aspects.
We have witnessed different Heads of State from Mwalimu Julius Nyerere to Jakaya Kikwete, and our country has passed through those phases without fears of instability. So basically we must acknowledge Mwalimu Nyerere's efforts of laying a good foundation for peace and harmony.
But there are complaints that we're still poor?
Some sectors are not performing well. And in this regard, President Kikwete has to work intensively on recommendations that will be submitted to him by a committee he formed to review mining contracts.
He obtained a landmark victory in the 2005 general elections, meaning that Tanzanians have confidence in him and believe that he is capable of resolving current problems, lead them out of extreme poverty, and other life hazards. The votes he obtained is the challenge.
We're doing better economically and socially but we would be doing far better if natural resources of this country were well utilised. For example, little has been done to make mining, agriculture and tourism sectors beneficial to the country and to Tanzanians as a whole.
We need to be more cautious on the growing trend of exploitation threatening our national treasures like mining. I will mention mining as an example because I believe we are losing a lot in this sector. Thanks to the President, a committee to review what is going on there has been formed.
I wonder why this sector contributes very little while, if well monitored, it could perform wonders. And these (mining) companies don't employ many people; they could have contributed to the national income through Pay As You Earn (PAYE) but statistics show that very few Tanzanians are employed in these companies.
And 75 percent of collections by the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) is collected from Dar es Salaam. What about the rest, especially those hosting mining companies? I wonder why a small country like Botswana collects 15 to 20 percent in taxation from these firms, while Tanzania manage to collect only three percent royalty from these companies, other taxes ending in withholding provisions.
All hopes are now on the mining committee that was recently formed. It should clearly tell the president how much we have been losing and what is the actual income the country is likely to get after we have done one, two or three steps to get rid of this exploitation. We need to get the share we deserve from this sector, before it is too late.
More Tanzanians are confident of the committee, especially with inclusion of members like Zitto Kabwe and Iddi Simba. Tanzanians should give the committee their full support so that it can perform to their expectations.
I am impressed with the work of media and should continue exposing bad things in our society, and help our president. You have been reporting that the contribution of mining in the economy is virtually insignificant. One newspaper wrote that taxes paid by Tanzania Breweries Ltd to TRA is far more than what all mining companies are paying as taxes in a year. That is what we want from the media.
But tourism also is not performing to people's expectations. I believe that the Tanzania Tourist Board can do more to promote the sector rather than acting as a coordinator. Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) in collaboration with the board should supervise and regulate national parks to make sure the sector contributes effectively to the national economy
And it is high time that Tanzanians should wake up and invest in agriculture through securing loans from the banks mushrooming in the country. I'm encouraged to see some banks showing interest to give loans, although loans for complex projects like agriculture can not be recovered in a short period.
But with amendments of some laws banks can now start giving loans as well as mortgage loans. It is difficult to have productivity rise in agriculture if there is a housing problem to people.
Let me tell you, we had the Tanzania Housing Bank (THB) which collapsed because of bad policy governing the whole sector, plus the introduction of Arusha Declaration. Borrowers simply refused to pay back the money and there was no legal bond between the bank and its customers; we may learn from the THB case and reestablish mortgage loans.
What is the difference the civil service of today has in comparison with your times before you were at the State House?
The civil service during Mwalimu Nyerere's era and during my time at the State House is quite different from today's. I started my civil service at the foreign affairs ministry and I remember it took me two years before I was confirmed. I served my probation for such a long time and during the period, we were highly scrutinised to make sure the office had people of integrity and credibility.
That was no joke; the government, being the sole employer, then had to investigate from the grassroots level to check your behavior and conduct during your school times, and the background of your parents or guardians. We were paid salaries and we lived on them without any extra income. We were not allowed to take loans from banks; the government provided loans and employee had deductions that lasted for the length of their stay in the civil service.
But now the government is no longer providing loans, private banks are giving loans with strict conditions and they want to recover their money within five years. Later Mwalimu ordered civil servants to start taking loans from banks because he saw the danger of dividing people, those with access to banks and those denied the facility.
It appeared that only civil servants were enjoying loans and living a better life, while other wananchi failed to obtain their daily bread. So Mwalimu ordered the banks to provide loans to all who meet minimum conditions. Then we introduced the Arusha Declaration which helped to set living standards and ethics to all civil servants but today with a market economy, I can see various changes in the civil service and the public sector.
During our times, public servants had to declare their wealth and it was compulsory. Today, I think it is becoming difficult because public servants engage in family businesses and other investments.
During Mwalimu's era, civil servants were living on their salaries and pensions when they retired.
Many people don't know this, that Mwalimu's house at Msasani was built after he took a loan from Barclays Bank.. I had a house somewhere in the city but the fact that I was given a government house, it was left unoccupied and I could not even rent it. I just gave it to the Registrar of Buildings and then I regained it after retirement.
But even todate senior government officials are supposed to declare their wealth?
I think there is still need for civil servants to declare their wealth or they have to be closely monitored. Look, in the United States, despite being a major capitalist country, public servants are restricted by regulations about their wealth. They have to declare their wealth and they are closely monitored to ensure they don't give false information about their wealth.
Here in Tanzania I am told we are prepared to adopt that system, and some regulations are being prepared. That is good; as we are late, we need to speed up. Better late than never.
How do you see today's life of common Tanzanians, economically?
In a market economy life has been unpredictable, and it all depends on how Tanzanians are prepared to face it. We have seen many investors coming into the country and therefore one would have expected to see many Tanzanians securing employment in those foreign companies, but too few of them are employed. That is a problem. We need to seriously invest in our own human resources, and to achieve that we need to provide better education for our people.
We need to teach our people notions of the free market and market economy, its advantages and challenges. To achieve this, special education should be introduced in schools where all these things will be taught.
The central government and local governments need to make sure this education is introduced and our children are well conversant with these modern economic terms.
I'm impressed that employers have started negotiating with their employees about the minimum wage. The negotiations have been timely although this could have been done much earlier, if economic conditions allowed.
Another problem is that we have neglected agriculture. We need to create an enabling environment to revive agriculture. We need many patriotic extension officers to help farmers on modern ways to improve the sector.
During our times, extension officers were highly respected, drawn from private agricultural institutions. But when the Arusha Declaration was introduced, they started relaxing because land was made public property, and extension officers remained in public agricultural institutions confiscated from capitalists.
So slowly agriculture deteriorated and Mwalimu gave up and turned to an industrialization policy where many industries were built, but again poor management failed him.
This teaches us on the need to have committed human resources in the country to help us revive our economy, and improve our lives. We also need a land tenure policy to allow people invest in agriculture, and therefore create dependable employment. But investors also are supposed to prepare good agricultural projects with well prepared feasibility studies so that they could secure loans from banks.
What would you say about the country's existing constitution; is there a need to re-write it or just make some amendments?
I don't see major problems with our constitution as it is; I consider it sufficient to make amendments whenever the need arises. It has been done in the US; their constitution has been amended eleven times or thereabouts. However, in the case of Tanzania, if people feel it should be rewritten then we need to identify broad areas of reworking, to justify re-writing.
Is it right to have words like 'Ujamaa na Kujitegemea (socialism and self reliance) in the constitution now?
It is true those words create confusion among many Tanzanians but people should know Ujamaa literally means 'a way of life;'how people decide to live, a life that is free of exploitation, and 'kujitegemea'is just the spirit of relying on a country's own resources. Nobody can dispute the need to be self-reliant.
Another issue is about the need to have Members of Parliament who are not ministers at the same time. I think we need to have really independent pillars of government, that is judiciary, legislature, and executive. In my opinion, the current parliamentary system overburdens our MP-ministers, but also denies them opportunity to serve their voters well in Parliament. This system was adopted from the United Kingdom; it doesn't mean we can not debate it. It is debatable.
How do you evaluate the size and performance of the current cabinet and which ministry do you think is shaky?
The Constitution doesn't limit the president on the size of the cabinet or number of cabinet members. It is important to note here that the president has been given freedom to choose his cabinet according to his preferences.
However, constitutions in some countries place limitations on the size of the cabinet, although what matters here is not the size but good governance, the sort of advice the cabinet gives to the president. Many people don't know; decision of the cabinet are decisions of the president, so this shows how the cabinet needs to be credible and trusted by the president.
The president has to evaluate work done by his cabinet, according to job descriptions he gave them. We are looking forward to see a major reshuffle in the cabinet, an exercise routinely done by a president in a period of two to three years to rearrange his line-up. On the question of which ministry is shaky, I won't give any comment. I won't comment on that I m not in a good position to evaluate. The president knows better his players; let us leave this to him.
What about complaints that our president is traveling a lot?
A president has to travel on particular missions outside the country for various reasons. In the case of President Kikwete, I think it was unavoidable for him to travel like that bearing in mind he was just new in the office and therefore he had to familiarize himself with the world. But I believe, with time he will settle and stretch out the trips.
Tanzania is well known at keeping and retaining its international relations, so our president is playing his part in that aspect, too.
What is your career itinerary, especially in the public service?
I was born in June 1936 and after my college education I was employed at the ministry of foreign affairs as an administrative officer. I remember it was on June 1st 1963 and I held various posts as a junior diplomat both at the ministry and in embassies.
In 1977 I was appointed full ambassador in New York, later on at Addis Ababa, and then back to New York. In late 1984, I was appointed permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs and in 1986 I was appointed chief secretary until 1995 when I retired from public service.
From 1995 to 2000 I ventured into politics and I was elected Member of Parliament for Ukonga constituency.
From 2000 until now am involved in various businesses and at the same time I am a board member of various institutions and shareholder in various companies.
I am also developing businesses left by my father John Rupia, and I am proud that my children Peter, Suzan, Pauline and Simon are all in the country doing business. This office belongs to my elder son Peter, who owns Rupia Investments.