In Summary
  • This is very important meeting in the whole Bunge calendar where the development of the people is being determined and where the country future is shaped.

The 2018/2019 national Budget has been debated in the National Assembly in Dodoma since last week.

It is the third Budget to be tabled in Parliament since President John Magufuli came to power in 2015.

The Budget meeting is scheduled to end on June 29, with the passage of the Finance Bill.

This is very important meeting in the whole Bunge calendar where the development of the people is being determined and where the country future is shaped.

Whatever goal the country plans to attain, for instance, to be a middle-income economy by 2025, is determined by every annual budget.

Sadly, there have been challenges in service delivery and execution of projects as they were planned, with legislators raising their concerns.

Lawmakers believe development projects are crucial in improving the people’s living standards.

However, the government has been talking about successes in initiating mega projects, saying they have huge impacts on society. It cites the Stiegler’s Gorge power project, Bombardier, standard-gauge railway and the Mirerani Wall.

However, questions arise. For example, where will the government get ample funding without risking having a swollen national debt stock?

The debt has already grown terribly although the government allays fears, saying it is still manageable.

But still there are concerns that after having a debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative we are going back to square one.

As they say ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, so Tanzania will never be built in a day.

By going too fast, we risk ruining the economy as it has happened to many other countries when the pace and finance do not match.

This will be the second budget meeting not to be televised as the government has banned Bunge live coverage and refused to heed the public pleas to lift the restriction. This has become a huge political issue and it is seen as a strategy to undermine the freedom of information and expression.

For the first time the Opposition will not present alternative budgets as the Bunge administration has not paid the Opposition’s supporting staff.

The contracts for four staff members allocated for the Opposition ended in November last year and have not been renewed.

The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Freeman Mbowe, says the actual number of the staff for the Opposition was supposed to be 12, but they were offered only four. Although they were overworked, they were very efficient and produced good reports. Mbowe has protested that what was going on was against tenets of Commonwealth members.

He insisted that for the Opposition to work well to check the government it has to have strong machinery for research to present formidable reports.

Now, the Opposition will be relying on individual contributions of their legislators, which will be something odd, to point at faults on the government Budget. Many people do not believe this will be the most effective method.

Opposition alternative budgets will not be in the Hansard.

However, the Budget meeting will continue and the Opposition will have to do with what it can to make its views known. The terrain is tough.

Mr Saleh is a lawyer, journalist, author, political commentator, media consultant and poet. He is also the Member of Parliament for Malindi in Zanzibar