Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan said yesterday that boosting Tanzania’s economy – whose growth has been slowed down by the viral the Covid-19 pandemic – remains her key priority, and asking to be given time to achieve that.
Tanzania’s economy grew by 4.8 percent last year, against a projection of 5.6 percent due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking during her maiden press conference, President Hassan said public rallies by politicians, as well as the proposed new constitution agenda, will be revived - but only after the economy gets back to pre-Covid-19 growth momentum.
She, however, said that Tanzania was facing a number of challenges that needed immediate addressing.
“From the Covid-19 pandemic and the slow economic growth rate, we have a lot of issues to work on in an effort to open up the country’s economy,” she said.
She said opening up the government was about inviting investors.
Between March and May alone, Tanzania registered twice as many investors as the number that was registered during a similar period in 2020.
“Investors are coming and our goal is to ensure that we create jobs; we bring money back into circulation and grow the economy of an individual person…,” she said.
That way, the government will raise its revenues through expansion of the tax base - and, thus, be in a position to finance Tanzania’s development budget.
To achieve these goals, the country must be stable and peaceful. “It is the responsibility of everyone (the government, the media and political parties) to achieve that goal,” she said.
The President said she needed time to achieve what is expected of her. “When that is achieved, we will work on other issues, including the politicians’ public rallies and the new Constitution… As of now, we allow parties to conduct their internal meetings and they are free to meet voters at the respective wards and constituencies,” she said.
“Give me time so that Tanzania’s economy can stand firm. They say economic power buys political power,” she said.
President Hassan said Tanzania has set aside $470 million, half of which is for the importation of medicines and protective gears, while the remaining would be spent on bailing out sectors adversely affected by the pandemic.
For the first time since May 2020, President Hassan revealed the recent statistics of the pandemic, saying the country has already recorded 100 patients following the third wave of the disease.
“About 70 of the 100 patients were under ventilators, while the remaining were receiving normal treatment. Looking at the statistics, the number isn’t big. But, we are challenged to prevent further infections by protecting ourselves and children,” she said.
President Hassan said immediately after assuming office she embarked on ways of adopting globally-accepted prevention measures against the disease, including adopting vaccines.
The Head of State said that was the reason she formed a committee to advise the government especially on the types of vaccines, manufacturing countries and funds sourcing.
“During our recent cabinet meeting, we decided that we are going for vaccination. But citizens will not be vaccinated by force; only those who are voluntarily ready will be vaccinated,” she said.
“We arrived at such a decision because we already have a number of business people who have already received the job outside the country.”
She said experts were currently working on the type of vaccinations to be adopted, noting that it is the task of the government alone; rather all Tanzanians do everything they believe will reduce Covid-19 transmission.
She instructed the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Council to approve and promote discovered Covid-19 traditional remedies for citizens’ use.
Controller and Auditor General’s report
The Head of State said she expects to receive a three-months audit report from the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), Charles Kichere, whose preparation has been completed.
Banned media outlets
President Hassan said she was aware that there were media organisations that have completed serving their punishment, advising that they should seek licences and resume their duties to educate, inform and entertain citizens.
“We need to follow the country’s laws, and African traditions should be observed to end arbitrary bans on media organisations,” she said.
Speaking earlier, the Tanzania Editors Forum Chairman, Mr Deodatus Balile, called upon the President to support the media, which has been adversely affected by the pandemic.
Mr Balile said a relief package would ensure the viability of media companies in the global health crisis.
He also called for the government to lift a ban on advertising with the private media, saying some media companies have been closed down due to financial muscle problems.
Mr Balile also called for the cut in Television and Radio license fees which he said were being paid in US dollars and are very high, as well as paying the debts that the government is owed by media companies.
Responding to the question of the stimulus package to the media, President Hassan said for now it was no walk in the park for the government to step in.
“Our economy too has been ravaged by the Covid-19. The pandemic has devastating outcomes on a number of economic aspects,” said the Head of State.
“We are also seeking a stimulus package to cushion our economy.
“For this year, it will be hard to provide the relief package to the media. But if our economy improves, we will reconsider your request,” said President Hassan.
“So far, we have been able to maintain a stable economy despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. We have foreign exchange reserves amounting to $4.97 billion which are enough to cater for Tanzania’s import requirements for a period of six months,” she said.
“Our inflation is at 3.3 percent which is still tolerable, while our local currency remains strong. Our mega projects – the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Dam – were progressing well.”
The President said through the just-approved budget, the government had set aside enough money to cater to development projects and delivery of social services.
On the issue of advertising in private media: “I will never prohibit public institutions from advertising in the private media. What you need to do is to be able to grab arising opportunities.”
If media companies are to get adverts - and, hence, money to run their operations - then they needed to be active.
The President said she would work shoulder to shoulder with the Prime Minister, Mr Kassim Majaliwa, in ensuring that the government pays debts it owes media companies.
“We will not be able to pay all our debts at once. But, we will pay them in instalments,” said the Head of State.
On the issue of radio and television licence fees, she admitted without quantifying that the fees were very high and that they needed to be cut down.
“We can’t scrap them, but we can at least find a way to cut them down. We cannot be slaves to our own laws,” she philosophised.