When politics gets  it right, agriculture  sector is the refuge

When politics gets it right, agriculture sector is the refuge

THE country was at a standstill last week when the parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania did what the constitution mandated it to do – providing an oversight role to the government which includes authorising its spending.

In the fateful day of Tuesday, 9th October 2021, the man of the hour was none other than Speaker Job Ndugai, flanked by other few enlightened lawmakers, ordered a Ministry of Finance to go back to its drawing table and review its 2022/23 development plan after the first draft failed to give priority to agriculture.

One can rightly argue against him on other political matters and will be vindicated, but when it comes to agriculture Mr Ndugai knows no how to disappoint, most especially when some few people – out of ignorance, malice or contempt – attempts to trample on the most important sector in the country.

He never hesitates to do the right thing. He will out-rightly turn as loud as a megaphone, tough as a Bedouin in the Sahara desert, but whose compassion towards the downtrodden players in the value chain will arguably be equalled to that of Mother Theresa’s.

It beats everyone’s understanding that last year’s budget was the smallest when put in comparison with major players in the East African region. Tanzania trailed behind Kenya’s and Uganda’s budget allocation. Tanzania set aside 228.9bn/- vis-à-vis Kenya’s 1.2tri/-, nearly five times more than Tanzania which is practically the regions’ food hub.

In addition, Tanzania’s share of agriculture to an entire budget was surprisingly lower than Kenya’s and Uganda’s which stood at 1.6 and 1.1 per cent respectively.

Conventional wisdom, exhibited even by the most unlearned clique in the society, teaches a cattle keeper to put more attention to a cow that gives more milk than one that offers little. A vine dresser will do whatever in his capacity to nourish or treat trees that bears more fruits than dying ones.

It just becomes that natural. In contrast, our spending in the sector has been one of the embarrassing scenes deserving fierce condemnation from anyone concerned with its development. We have been so generous to dry lands and deserts and stingy to fertile soils which give certainty to giving expected returns on investment.

The scenario can be equalled to what one academician in Tanzania said metaphorically that, “The country walks using its hands with its legs facing the skies”. The current intervention by the parliament though gives us hope the common sense will be at work again. In a similar move, the government of Tanzania was bold enough to do what President Harry S.

Truman posted at his desk in October 2nd, 1945, a famous sign that read “The buck stops here” – which literally means that the leader is ready to take responsibility for whatever will happen under his or her watch. And this time it was not President Truman but rather President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

After realising the mistakes that were made in June this year when the government legislated a withholding tax of 2.0 per cent to companies and corporations on their sales of crops, livestock and fisheries, last week on Wednesday it announced that President Samia has presented a bill to amend Act no. 6 (2021) which imposed that burdensome, exploitative and anti-progress tax. Unbeknownst to many, any progress in the sector is directly proportional to its spending.

For about a month now we have been speaking about The Economist’s flagship report on Global Food Security Index, in which Tanzania improved so colourfully by jumping ten points to number eighty-sixth positions from ninety-fifth and became the leading improved countries on earth. Little did we speak; though about the number one best performer is the Republic of Ireland. Ireland, with only 164,400 farmers portioned a sum total of 1.85 billion Euros for the sector. This is equal to 11,280 Euros per farmer per annum which is equivalent to 29.7m/-.

In the just ended 2021/22 budget, Tanzania – which boasts to have about 40 million Tanzanians in agriculture – set aside a measly 80bn/-. This means only a total of 2,000/- have been made available to Tanzanian farmers. Whereas one can argue about the difference in the economic mighty that these two countries have, the share of agriculture versus total spending says it all. Ireland’s entire 2021/22 budget stood at 4.7 billion Euros.

Nevertheless, nearly 40 per cent went to agriculture sector that employs not more than 5.0 per cent of the entire population. Our budget that stood at nearly 34tri/- a meagre 0.2 per cent was directed to agriculture sector.

All being said and done, the above mentioned scenarios from government and parliament reminds us one poignant thing, that when politics gets it right, agriculture is not only where we can run for refuge but is where our prosperity come from.

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Author: Zirack Andrew

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