Monday, November 14, 2011
We have tried a middle of the road type of a socialism that never truly worked. Behind it was an exemplary idealist and once in a generation leader in Mwalimu. Four years into his retirement, Berlin Wall fell; with it, 31 years of socio-economic experiment came to an end—with mixed results. Tanzania is a unified republic with a clear national identity; albeit with unperfected union. At 50 years old, Tanzania’s potential for human development is yet to be realized, the increasing income inequality (the fallacy of 7% growth) is squandering away the social capital that Mwalimu and Mzee Mwinyi had accrued. It has yet been clear to our governments that embracing untamed and imported neoliberal economic policies will not only wreck havoc to our fortunes, but also threatening our social fabric. The 2008 financial crisis was largely caused by income inequality*. Nevertheless, previous Tanzania’s government embraced the market economy wholeheartedly, though in some cases it was imposed upon us. If 17% of your budget is beyond your means, there goes your sovereignty—on everything. But I will argue that our embracing of bad economic policies is mainly caused by a misinformed leadership at helm more than anything.
For starters, our government is a massive, slow bureaucracy that is also inefficient. As it is, our government incentivizes her inefficiency—which sustains the crisis. The longer it takes for your passport to be issued, increases your likeliness to bribe. Why should the passport manager hurry up to issue you a passport? This is the model of our government from bottom-up. Its pretty shitty. No private company would be able to survive under this model. Too bad citizens are not allowed to shop for governments of their residence. That would be the perfect market solution to punish our lousy governments. Surprisingly, national dialogue on development continues to bypass the fundamental flaw of our country, an ancient governing model. As I pointed earlier, this too is the leadership problem.
Tanzanians have always elected career politicians for the presidency. Mzee Mwinyi, Mzee Mkapa, and currently Jakaya Kikwete were all career politicians prior to the presidency. Even opposition parties also nominated career politicians. Dr. Slaa is the embodiment of a career politician, so as Prof Lipumba (by virtue of running more than twice). Folks who after decades of running sections of the inefficient bureaucracy have convinced themselves that, only they have the wisdom to take us to the promise land. But they almost always underperform. To me, this is a manifestation of their lack of policy knowledge, and lack of understanding of intricate ways of the barbarous globalized economy. I am not saying wonkish president will save us, few politicians are wonkier than Bill Clinton and yet he repealed Glass-Steagall Act . I am saying that, the next election might be the appropriate time to elect wonkish president, because for our government to work for the people, it needs a leader who has intimate knowledge of how to reform a demented institution with 6 billion dollars budget. Career politicians do not possess such knowledge. More than anything, he will increase the size of it all to accommodate all his political allies he accumulated over the years. In Italy and Greece, career politicians have all retired leaving the position for more technocratic Prime Ministers. The ground is shifting beneath us.
The next presidential election in Tanzania, might be of the most important for this generation. We still have our social fabric intact, which is vastly needed for any growth; but we do not know how long this fabric will remain intact—with the increasing income inequality**. We will need the president who can best articulate the policy prescription to our government so that she can live within her means, while also protecting the society from the externalities generated by our investors. We ought to look for the leader who can dare to create an income inequality that would benefit the poorest, bridging the technological gap, and reform our rather messed up education system. To get that kind of a leader will require political parties to nominate for more technocrat candidates and shy away from the good ole names that we have been used to hear for decades.
* Stagnant incomes of Americans, made subprime mortgage a trillion dollar industry. Basically, a trillion dollar of garbage loans that did not qualify for government backed security.
**Arab awakening is the results of income inequality that is threatening social fabrics of these countries. Tanzania can be next.