President Samia Suluhu Hassan dropped a bombshell on Monday when she revealed that some State-owned entities were borrowing from banks to pay the government annual dividends.
It is common knowledge that some parastatals have been making huge losses for many years, but have nevertheless been paying tens of billions of shillings to the government every year.
Tanzanians have been wondering, and rightly so, how State-owned firms that are barely able to keep their heads above water, let alone post handsome profits, can fork out huge sums in dividends annually.
The question that has been asked all along is: where does this money come from? Now we know.
It will be recalled that State-owned firms were ordered in 2016 to justify their existence by paying annual dividends to the government without fail, regardless of whether they were making a profit or not.
It was one of the strangest government decisions in Tanzania’s post-independence history, but since it was made by the Fifth Phase Government, which was notorious for its excesses, it probably did not come as an earth-shattering shock.
Since most state-owned enterprises were perpetually in the red, their top officials sought to protect their jobs – and generous salaries – by embarking on borrowing sprees.
This is something that should have featured prominently in the Controller and Auditor General’s reports from the 2016/17 financial year onwards, but has not for reasons that are obvious. That was a time when the CAG’s good office had been systematically emasculated and rendered a toothless bulldog.
However, the government, being the owner of the entities question, cannot claim it was totally unaware of this shameful deception. We had firms that were broke, but which were queuing up to hand over to the government billions of shillings in borrowed money in order to remain in the good books of the powers that be.
These entities are now tens of billions of shillings in debt as a result of State-sponsored intimidation and self-serving managements. How they will clear these debts is anybody’s guess.
WE SHOULD DO MORE FOR YOUTH
A survey conducted recently established that jobs and money top the list of what African youth want most. Being a survey, it may well reflect the reality on the ground by up to 90 per cent. However, it may also miss the mark by a significant margin. Since we live, dine, dance, work and sometimes even consult the young adults in our lives—those aged between 18 and 35—we are probably the best judges of the truth.
All young people want a job or a regular source of income, at the very least. Getting a job means a steady income to cater for basic demands such as clothes, shelter and food.
Rather than live in denial and shock at what their children get up to when they are not within sight, parents should face up to the reality today’s youth have to deal with.
Governments too should come up with meaningful and realistic policies to help youth cross the bridge safely both at professional and personal levels. They are the next set of parents and leaders, after all.