|Finance Minister, Philip Mpango.|
Tuesday, 3 April 2018
ALL EYES ON BUNGE AS BUDGET SITTING STARTS
Dar es Salaam. The marathon parliamentary sitting in which MPs will also debate the government’s budget for the 2018/19 financial year starts today in Dodoma.
Tanzanians in general, and members of the business community in particular, are eager to know what kind of budget the government will come up with, and whether it will really meet their assorted expectations.
Members of the business community, and private sector players at large, expect that the legislators would deliberate on the types and numbers of taxes that should be trashed, or, at least, revamped. This is to enable the government to realise its cherished industrialisation dream of transforming Tanzania into a semi-industrialized middle-income country as per the National Development Vision 2025.
As outlined at the 11th meeting of the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) held at State House in Dar es Salaam under the chairmanship of President John Magufuli last month, members of the business community expect to see the legislators contributing functional inputs into how to effectively improve Tanzania’s business climate.
From what was discussed during the meeting, issues like multiple and inordinately high tax rates, policy unpredictability and delays in clearing imported goods out of customs control at the ports (such as industrial sugar and other inputs), must be dealt with in all seriousness by the legislators in the august House.
Addressing the meeting, the chairman of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), Mr Reginald Mengi, stated that the Foundation wants the government to lessen the taxation burden which the formal sector of the economy is increasingly labouring under
“Heavy taxes are weighing us down,” Mr Mengi said in all frankness.
Tourism sector operators will also be ‘all eyes and ears’ to learn firsthand what the MPs will come up with as a lasting solution to the sector’s myriad challenges.
Tourism is one of the few major foreign exchange earners in Tanzania, and stakeholders hope to see that it is once and for all relieved of the multiple and high taxes that are slapped on it, the chairman of the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (Tato), Mr Wilbad Chambulo, stated.
Speaking to The Citizen, the Shelys Pharmaceuticals procurement executive, Mr James John, said inconsistencies in some of Tanzania’s policies would likely scare away investors despite the country’s phenomenally huge business potential.
With the ongoing construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) from Dar es Salaam to the hinterland, it is everybody’s guesswork that MPs will also spend some of their time in the debating chamber to discussing what is going on regarding the mammoth project.
For his part, the Bakhresa Group corporate affairs director, Mr Hussein Sufian, told The Citizen that poor infrastructure and unreliable power supply were some of the factors that were impeding the construction of Group’s Bagamoyo Sugar Plant project at a projected cost of Sh557 billion to Sh669 billion.
These impediments, Mr Sufian said, need to be addressed soonest.
Pundits will also be anxiously waiting to be appraised of the progress which the government has registered in supporting the agricultural sector with enough budget allocation this time round to cater to the needs of irrigation and mechanized farming. The government also needs to revisit agricultural taxation with a view to giving farmers time and reason to breathe with some ease
In the current budget, agriculture was allocated a measly 4.8 per cent of the total budget. This is nowhere near the 10 per cent allocation that was agreed upon by the African Union members under the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security.
But the minister for Agriculture, Dr Charles Tizeba, believes that the level has been attained – and probably even surpassed.
“The 2003 Maputo Declaration does not reflect our agriculture system which enjoys economies of scale from other sectors. So, in their totality, we stand a chance to hit 10 per cent of the total budget since the money that goes into the sector is also scattered across other sectors and ministries,” he said.
For miners, the establishment of ‘Gold Reserve’ as promised during the 2017/18 budget would be of much interest to players in the mining sector.
At a time when official data produced by the central Bank of Tanzania (BoT) show a drop in gold production, the lawmakers meeting in Dodoma are also be expected to deliberate on the issue with a view to bringing the situation to normalcy.
Against the requirements of the October 2016 Government Notice No. 286 on Mining Minimum Shareholding and Public Offering Regulations-2016, Tanzanians would also be looking out for their MPs to deliberate on the progress in listing 20 per cent of mining firms’ shares with the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE).
Education stakeholders expect to see whether or not school infrastructure like teachers’ housing, classrooms, teaching tools and toilet facilities are adequate every which way, reflecting the number and need of students and teachers alike.
Parliament should also ensure that school subsidies as pledged by the government – including especially free education – are also regularly availed to the deserving in full and on time. The pros and cons of the new proposed primary education system that requires pupils to spend six years in elementary school instead of the current seven may also make sense if discussed extensively.