Mixed outlook as 2014 begins

What has the year 2014 in store for Tanzanians is what most people in the country will be anxious about.

For the elite, comprising of big corporate businesses operating in Tanzania and probably donors, the outlook is bright due to impressive growth of the economy, declining of inflation and an overall good management of fiscal policy.

According to a recent World Bank and KPGM survey, most top business leaders believe that the economy performed better in 2013 than in 2012 and are positive about the prospects for 2014.

Tanzania’s overall macroeconomic performance has been strong, with inflation declining to single digits and gross domestic product (GDP) growth projected at about 7 per cent in the medium term.

The main drivers of growth are telecommunications, transport and financial intermediation, manufacturing and construction and trade.

However, it seems the outlook is not shared by the majority of the citizenry. A significant number of Dar es Salaam residents are pessimistic about the 2014 due to soaring prices of basic commodities making it for them more difficult to make ends meet.

A section of residents randomly interviewed said they were concerned that the cost of living will go up with the soaring prices of electricity, fuel, gas and other basic commodities.

And others were concerned of grinding poverty in the country, saying it was an irony that despite more than a decade of impressive growth, an ordinary Tanzanian was still struggling to make ends meet.

A resident who identified herself as a teacher and researcher, Ingrid Kokubanza said she was worried that life would be tougher with hiked electricity tariff and soaring prices of basic commodities. “Electricity tariffs up and so is price for domestic gas all these adding to our miseries,” she said.

Electricity tariffs have been increased by about 40 per cent effective the 1st January after the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) approved proposals for adjustments of the tariff by the state owned power utility firm, TANESCO.

As the hike in power tariff begin to strike, prices for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in Tanzania have gone up from around 55,000/- to 65,000/-. No explanation has been given by the distributors apart from the usual excuse of rise in price of the product in the world market.

Ms Kokubanza said despite the increase in power tariff and prices of other necessities, Tanzanians were also subjected to a number of taxes and duties adopted recently. A trader at Kariakoo, Humphrey Mlay said there was no alternative but to adjust to the austere way of life.

“The outlook looks uncertain. We will have to change our lifestyles to adjust to the real life,” he said. He, however, noted that it was usual that the first two months of the year were difficult because of meeting certain obligations such as school fee, uniforms and other necessities for children.

“Many good schools are charging astronomical figures, from kindergarten to secondary and this really is a challenge to most of us,” he said. He said it would be good if the government checked on the fee charged by private schools.

A cigarette hawker at Buguruni, Muzil Athumani said he was worried about soaring prices of cigarettes as it makes his business difficult.

The year looks good but I am worried about the price of cigarettes. It keeps on increasing and it becomes difficult to sell,” he said. A taxi driver at Tazara area, Thomas Shayo said he taxi business was becoming more difficult because of the influx of bodaboda and bajaj - two and three wheeler motorcycles respectively plying in town areas.

“Taxi business has become more difficult because we have been invaded by bajaj and bodaboda. They don’t pay tax. We pay tax and other duties, yet we compete for customers. This is not fair,” he said. “We often fail to get what owners of the cars demand.

The business is so difficult. We wish that these bajaj and bodaboda had separate areas to operate. According to him owners of cars demand 105,000/- per week depending on the state of the car.

The rest is what they as drivers earn. Another trader at Tazara, Ali Ramadhani said despite tough times in the first two months of the year, he was optimistic his business would survive and grow this year.

“Life is not about losing hope, if you work hard you will succeed so long as you are healthy,” Ramadhani, a disabled petty trader said. “January and February must be tough.

Schools are opening and parents have to pay fees, fare money, uniform and other necessities.” 

Economists say while the structure of the economy has undergone some changes over the years, the slow progress in poverty reduction was largely due to underperforming of agriculture that employs about 70 per cent of the population.
Source: Daily News, reported by Henry Lyimo from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
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