Dar es Salaam. Three key parliamentary committees say members of the business community and the general public believe that the government must do something to cushion the economy from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Committee chairpersons who spoke to The Citizen separately said proposals being considered include the need for “substantial” measures that would stimulate business and economic activities during the health crisis.
Budget Committee chairman Mashimba Ndaki said they have received from the private sector proposals on the need to cut various taxes and loan interest rates, adding that the committee was currently working on the views before forwarding them to the government.
Mr Ndaki, who is also the Maswa West MP, said the proposals also include finding a way for commercial banks to defer interest payments on loans issued during the crisis until businesses stabilise.
“This is the way to go. I don’t expect that the government will pump much money into the economy to help protect it from the impact of the coronavirus,” the CCM lawmaker said.
Mr Ndaki said the government through the Bank of Tanzania and other institutions were assessing the impact, noting that upon completion of the assessment, the Budget Committee would advise the government on the way forward.
“Covid-19 is a global phenomenon. Needless to say, Tanzania is part of the world, and our economy has been impacted too. Right now, the impact on global value chains is already being felt. Hopefully it will end soon, but if not, then the impact can be severe,” he said
Industry, Trade and Environment Committee chairman Suleiman Saddiq backed calls for a rescue package in case the situation worsens.
He said the committee has already met with Industry and Trade minister Innocent Bashungwa, and advised him to prepare strategies for cushioning industries instead of waiting until businesses have been brought to their knees. Mr Saddiq added that the committee was of the view that the government should meet with traders and owners of manufacturing companies to collect their views on the best way to handle the issue.
“For the sake of protecting jobs, the government should act now so that manufacturers don’t suspend production,” the Mvomero MP (CCM) said.
Land, Natural Resources and Tourism Committee chairperson Kemirembe Lwota said the relevant ministry has formed a special commission to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism and hospitality industries.
She added that the committee would advise the government after receiving a comprehensive report, which will also be presented to Finance and Planning minister Philip Mpango next week.
“Since Covid-19 is likely to have catastrophic consequences on businesses not only in Tanzania but also globally, we will advise the government accordingly,” the CCM Special Seats MP said.
From imposing travel bans to prohibiting mass gatherings and ordering mandatory quarantine of people arriving from the hardest hit countries, governments across Africa are increasingly adopting tough measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Going by preliminary economic data analysed by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad), the effects could be felt intensely by developing economies that are reliant on selling raw materials.
Air transport in Tanzania has taken a huge hit following the suspension of flights to and from the country.
However, Tanzania Airports Authority (TAA) director general Julius Ndyamukama said Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) Terminal Three would remain open. “Terminal Three can be used for unscheduled flights as long as the laid-down procedures for fighting the coronavirus are strictly observed,” he said.
Mr Ndyamukama added that the request that payments made by ground handling firms be deferred could be discussed.
Twenty Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Tanzania, where one death has been reported.