MPs say No to Mkulo, AG Bills


Members of Parliament yesterday turned down two Bills seeking to amend several laws. 

Mr Mkulo
MPs from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi joined their opposition colleagues in rejecting Bills by Finance minister Mustafa Mkulo and the Attorney General Frederick Werema.

The first to face the wrath of the lawmakers was Mr Mkulo, whose proposal to reduce the tariff on bottled and packed water to enable poor consumers afford the commodity was rejected at the end of the morning session.

Judge Werema
Later in the day, Mr Werema met a similar fate when MPs shot down The Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments (No 2) Act of 2011 on the grounds that it had many weaknesses, especially regarding loans for students in institutions of higher learning. They want it reworked for tabling during the April parliamentary session.

In a rare show of unity, MPs from the ruling party and the opposition blocked a government move to reduce the cost of bottled and packed water.

The reduction of the tariff on the water was presented initially as a move to make it affordable for poor consumers, but the MPs bought into a counter-argument that the reduction would benefit only the suppliers.

Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) MPs joined those in the opposition in an unanimous rejection of the resolution tabled by minister for Finance and Economic Affairs Mustafa Mkulo.

The MPs took the cue from Dr Charles Tibeza (Buchosa-CCM), who told the House that reducing the tariff on a litre of bottled water from 69/- to 12/- would favour producers of the water and not poor consumers.

Just before Deputy Speaker Job Ndugai sought a voice vote, the MP said: “The reduction of 57/- is not implementable in retail business. This reduction is only intended to protect the producers (of bottled water). It is practically unworkable.”

The few voices supporting the resolution were drowned out by the resounding “No” from both sides of the House. Mr Ndugai then directed Mr Mkulo to rework the resolution and table it again at a later date.

Mr Mkulo had earlier said the tariff reduction would create a 12.8bn/- revenue collection deficit, but the government would recover 7.7bn/- by reducing expenditure on allowances, workshops, purchase of motor vehicles and furniture, running of offices, domestic and foreign training, domestic and foreign travel and repair of office buildings.

The resolution ignited a barbed debate by MPs in both camps, with some of them accusing Mr Mkulo of ignoring ideas given by the Parliamentary Finance and Economic Affairs committee to help streamline the country’s economic management.

Most of the problems in the country, they claimed, came about because the minister was not willing to accommodate ideas put forward by the Parliamentary Finance and Economic Affairs committee in the course of planning the government budget.

Dr Tibeza said the committee had floated the idea of reducing the tariff on bottled water in June 2011 but the minister did not act on the matter “until today, six months down the road”.

He said the government should also review the tariff on other goods such as timber and locally produced wine to protect local producers from stiff competition from imports.

Dr Tibeza said the tariff on timber imported from Malawi and Mozambique was low compared to that produced at Mufindi in Iringa Region, adding: “The tariff for a bottle of wine produced in Dodoma is Sh420 while tariff for an imported bottle of wine is 122/-.”

Dr William Mgimwa (Kalenga-CCM) wondered why the government boasted that the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) had collected over 102 per cent of its revenue target but failed to allocate funds for development projects in district councils.

Winding up debate on the resolution before it was rejected, Mr Mkulo said the government had formed a multi-disciplinary committee to review the taxation system. It draws members from the public and private sectors.

He said ideas presented by the MPs would be taken into account when the government starts working on the 2012/2013 budget next month.

Dr Faustine Ndugulile (Kigamboni-CCM) made the first move to reject the proposed amendments tabled by Mr Werema, saying the parliamentary committee for social services was not involved in the process of amending the laws.

The amendments on education loans to students in institutions of higher learning were not conducive to improving standards of education in the country, he said, and were likely to fan boycotts in universities.

The outspoken Kigamboni MP said amendments to student education loans were likely to discriminate against students from poor families, who might have trouble gaining access to the loans.

Ms Angela Kairuki (Special seats-CCM) said the entire legislation on loans should be overhauled to make it friendly to students from all walks of life.

The chief whip, Dr Mary Nagu, concurred with the MPs, saying education loans were a very sensitive issue.
Sources: The Citizen,www.thecitizen.co.tz, reported by Lucas Liganga
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