On Tanzanias donor dependence syndrome MAKWAIAWA KUHENGA Daily News; Thursday,February 21, 2008 @19:02 BEFORE me is a descriptive piece published by one of the leading dailies in the course of US President George W. Bushs visit to this country which tells in a simple language the shameful donor dependence levels this country has sunk thus far. The scene at Amana Hospital yesterday was reminiscent of a hectic household 15 minutes before a wedding dinner party. Whereas some were busy (at the hospital compound) planting grass, painting walls and cleaning up the hospitals outdoor walkways, others were the hospital compounds pavements and pathways or affixing decorations in the halls. In-patients were hastily given new garments, and the usually overcrowded wards, suddenly, had a bed for its patients -- no sharing. What does one make out of this item? More than 40 years of independence today, Tanzania has patients sharing beds if not sleeping literally on the floor! The most shameful episodes of all is that it takes the visit of an American president for our authorities to produce beds for each patient and new hospital bed garments! The questions to ask are: What is the expense involved in putting up beds in hospitals? Doesnt this country possess immense timber resources some of which are being logged off the country? Do we have to have necessarily metal-made beds that would oblige us to use foreign exchange to import? Another set of questions: Do we need the president of the United States to visit us to tide up our hospitals? Before responding to these questions, let me report on what I heard from ordinary people as they were being interviewed on the Bush visit: Nimefulai sana ujio wa Bush. Ana ela nyingi sana yule, yaani nchi yake Malekani. Ataisevu sana nchi hii.. (I am very happy with the Bush visit. He has lots of money. He will save this country). This is what one of them had to say to the television news reporter in colloquial Swahili. So this is where we are sunk -- from the led to the leaders, it is dependence through and through! Nobody is talking the language of KUJITEGEMEA -- self-reliance-- even as a declaration of intent! If one listens to most speeches by our leaders, there is no repugnance on the countrys continued donor dependence -- in fact nobody feels ashamed that 40 per cent of the budget of this country is donor funded. Donor support has been taken almost for granted or automatically by our successive governments with the exception of only the first post independence government of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere which had self-reliance as a cornerstone of its economic policies, albeit as a declaration of intent. And what is even worse, nobody is worried of the consequences of continued dependence on the so-called donor community. How does a country safeguard its sovereignty and independence of thought and action when it has to move bowl in hand begging for donations? As a matter of fact, invariably all speeches by most of our leaders are geared to please donors and in fact if there is a voice of public opinion that is singularly effective and taken seriously by the powers that be in this country is the donor community! It does not really matter what the people feel on the ground, it is the feel and sentiments of the donor community that counts -- it is they who did put pressure to bear to initiate investigations into the EPA scandal at the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) and we have had an investigation! I may be wrong in this opinion, but at any level, is dependence a sign of more or less freedom anywhere? Now, let us revisit our monumental shame of failing to provide beds for our patients in hospital. What could be the excuse for this really? At community level, are we unable to institute a self-help programme under which local governments can mobilize carpenters to make beds using our abundant timber resource? Who said vitanda vya chuma (metal-made beds) are necessarily suited for hospitals? Do we need the Americans to buy beds for us apart from mosquito nets? I was looking at the ranks in terms of support Tanzania has received from the donor community and someone has told me that the Americans actually rank number seven from the list of donors to this country as compared to the British who rank number one in terms of support to this country. Perhaps the Americans will now overtake the British with their 700 million-dollar grant which most of us seem so excited and overjoyed about. But I would advise the Americans and all others who want to support us to deploy a SELF-RELIANCE benchmark as qualification number one to deserve future grants rather than democracy and good governance. This will help jolt us -- all of us Tanzanians -- to our senses if we are to be cured of this crippling donor dependence virus inimical to the very independence and sovereignty of our country.