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Wednesday, 6 June 2018

WANTED: PLANNING COMMISSION


Some Members of Parliament (MPs) have advised the government to restore the Planning Commission and place it under the President’s Office, instead of the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

Mtwara Rural legislator Hawa Ghasia (CCM) argued when debating budget estimates for covering FY 2018/2019 that it was imperative that the defunct commission be revived to help the government come up with strategic plans to facilitate large-scale research projects within the country.

It is important that the government should revive the Planning Commission, once established as an agency for Strategic Thinking (Think Tank) on the national economy,

providing advice to the government on medium and long-term strategies for socio-economic development focusing on the big picture … this commission should work more independently than being just a department under the umbrella of a ministry,” she said.

She said under the current structure, planning activities were limited because the ministry was more focused on revenue collection rather than planning. “Planning is important because … it will lead us to produce more and effectively collect more revenue in the end …

if we don’t plan and instead focus on tax collection alone, we will end up with nothing to collect because our people will have no capital to run their businesses,” she warned.

Ms Ghasia said the government should also work closely with the privatesector under Public Private Partnership (PPP) to help ease the borrowing burden to cover the country’s mega-projects.

Although the national debt is still sustainable, it’s also important that it does not escalate further … the government should fast-track implementations of the projects listed under PPP. Most of these projects are still at feasibility study level,” she said.

Adadi Rajab (Muheza - CCM) concurred, arguing that it was “wrong to place planning” activities under the ministry of finance, saying the former commission should be in the President’s Office for it to work independently and effectively.

He said at the moment, there was utter lack of checks and balances in planning activities. Mr Rajab also warned the ministry against reallocating ‘ring-fenced’ funds meant for various projects such as REA or TANROADS,

arguing that it was important to release the funds in time to avoid project delays or even downright failure. He also demanded speedy settlement of tax appeal cases, saying out of some 300 pending cases, just 35 had since been resolved to date.

Maswa West MP Mashimba Ndaki (CCM), also advised the ministry to seek ways of restoring the planning commission, saying “planning always comes ahead of an effective budget.” “We need a planning office with full autonomy … which should be forward looking,” he said.

The MP also decried delayed payments owed to local contractors, saying the delays were affecting most projects at the (district) council level. “ … much as I support the government’s ongoing verifications which are crucial before effecting payment to claimants,

it’s also important to move fast in this exercise and pay those that deserve to be paid in time … verifications should not exceed one year,” he argued. Other MPs who sought revival of the planning commission were: Buhigwe legislator Albert Obama Ntabaliba (CCM) and Jitu Soni (Babati Rural - CCM). Soni said the planning commission would help conduct research on why the informal sector was growing while the formal sector was experiencing slow growth.

The commission was responsible for monitoring and analysing development trends and providing advice on macro and sectoral policies as well as broad socio-economic development issues.

Consequently, the commission was tasked to focus on strategic policy analysis on issues and problems of great public importance, with a view to proposing appropriate solutions.

It had a network of professionals with recognised expertise and competence in a particular domain and an authoritative claim to policy-relevant knowledge within that domain or area of concentration.

Moving his ministry’s budget estimates for the next financial year here on Monday, Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Philip Mpango, said the government’s internal audit department had helped save 1.2trn/-, thanks to thorough scrutiny of claims forwarded for approval before payments were made to claimants.

He said the ministry would continue to make strict verification of all claims forwarded for approval before making any payments to creditors. Dr Mpango said the ministry has progressively carried out reforms in legal framework,

payment systems and the budget systems in its effort to improve management of public finance and service delivery. In its effort to reduce administrative costs and increasing efficiency in revenue collection, payments of salaries and goods and services,

he said the government had since introduced use of ICT in Public Financial Management (PFM). He particularly cited the use of five key financial management tools to facilitate efficiency, to wit: Government e-Payment Gateway (GePG); Central Budget Management System (CBMS); Planning, Budgeting and Reporting (PlanReP); Government Salary Payment Platform (GSPP) and Tanzania Interbank Settlement System (TISS). Minister Mpango also stressed that the national debt was still sustainable.

According to Debt Sustainability Analysis (DSA) conducted by his ministry for the year ending June 2017, the ratio of debt per GDP stood at 34.4 per cent, well below the red line of 56 per cent.

He said the country’s external debt stood at 19.7 per cent well below the red line of 40 per cent “Tanzania’s debt, measured by all sustainability factors, remained very sustainable and the country still had room for further borrowing, he insisted, but said despite the sustainability of the national debt, the government will continue to take precautions, strictly by borrowing soft loans to undertake its mega infrastructure projects.

He said development partners were expected to contribute 2,676.64bn/- (2.7tn/) in the form of grants and concessional loans. He also said that the ministry’s 2018/2019 budget took into account goals and objectives of the Tanzania Development Vision 2025, FYDP II and institutional Strategic Plans.

These plans have been reflected in annual budget implementations and in the medium term. Dr Mpango said the 2018/19 budget is aimed at achieving the following macroeconomic targets which include to attain real GDP growth of 7.2 per cent in 2018 up from the actual growth of 7.1 per cent in 2017, continue to contain inflation at single digit, narrow the budget deficit to 3.2 per cent of GDP in 2018/19 from 2.1 per cent in 2017/18 and 1.5 per cent in 2016/17.

Minister Mpango also assured the House that the government was committed to President John Magufuli’s campaign promise to disburse 50m/- to each village.

The ministry has requested Bunge to approve 12.05tr/- for its eight votes, of which 10.8trn/- is for recurrent budget, which include 10trn/- to services the national debt. Another 1.3trn/- is for development projects.

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