EXCHANGE RATES (December 20): £1 = Shs 1280 $1-Shs 797
There have been highly significant developments which are likely to ease Tanzania’s debt problem. Leaders of the world’s eight leading economic powers have offered to write off $100 billion of Third World debt and Tanzania is one of seven new countries brought into the debt relief programme. The major powers have also agreed to restrict their sales of gold which has stabilised the price of the gold being produced by Tanzania’s burgeoning gold mining industry.
President Mkapa on September 2 in Stockholm explained Tanzania’s recent decision to leave COMESA There was lot of overlapping of regional organisations and attempts to rationalise their objectives had failed. Comesa did not have a regulatory mechanism to take into account imbalances in industrialisation in the region. Tanzania had given one years’ notice and would see what happened during that period before deciding whether to pull out or reconsider its decision -Daily News.
Responding to criticism of his proposal to introduce a positive discrimination policy backed by law to economically empower indigenous Tanzanians, Minister for Industry and Commerce Iddi Simba pointed out that, since South Africa had adopted a similar policy in 1994, Black African businesses had increased their ownership of businesses on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange from 0.3% to 11%. He added that it would be absurd to associate the Tanzanian government with any policy which propagated racial discrimination. The government would not stop the further progress of any successful enterprise he said.
Two of Zanzibar’s oldest hotels -the Africa House (13 rooms) formerly known as the ‘English Club’ and the Zanzibar Hotel (24 rooms) -have been leased out by the government to Zanzibar Hotels and Tours Co Ltd. They are to be upgraded to 3-star standard without changing the outside structure. 80,000 tourists are now visiting Zanzibar each year.
The leading newspaper group in Tanzania, the Guardian Ltd, announced in August that it would have to retrench 100 of its workers. One of its rivals, ‘The African’ reported that the parent company (IPP Ltd) had started experiencing financial difficulties at the beginning of 1999.
Tanzania has its first desalination plant. It cost $500,000 and has been installed by Coca Cola Kwanza Ltd. as a strategic move because Dar es Salaam goes through dry spells with low water levels each year -East African.
Winners of the award for British consultancy of the year 1999 (Category B) are CMS Cameron McKennal Mott Macdonald who received a 25-year contract to privatise and operate Kilimanjaro Airport. Some £7 million is being spent in the fIrst phase of its rehabilitation -The Times.
The Bill under which the 35-branch National Bank of Commerce (NBC) has been privatised was passed in the National Assembly on November 9 under a certificate of urgency. This had to happen before the end of 1999 if Tanzania were to benefit from further IMF assistance and new debt relief. Under a Memorandum of Agreement, 70% of the bank was scheduled to be sold to the 1000-branch Amalgamated Bank of South Africa (ABSA). The newly appointed ABSA management of ‘NBC (1997) Ltd’ soon began to collect billions of shillings from bad debts. “The existing bad risk customers are going to pay the money back” declared what the Guardian described as the ‘tough talking’ new Managing Director Gerald Jordaan. Jordaan said it was not his policy to flood the place with South Africans (there would be not more than 25 expatriates) but only those local workers (who total 1,100) who merited their positions would be retained. He was not worried about the other banks in Tanzania (more than 20) many of which commanded international repute -“these banks create for us a competitive atmosphere” he said. One of the expatriate directors was quoted in the Guardian as saying that, when ABSA took over the Bank, it had a negative capital base -it was bankrupt. On August 31 the new bank announced that Shs 3 billion of debt had been recovered during the first four weeks since the takeover. On August 31 Jordaan said that the names of bankers who had been allegedly involved in fraud or theft but had been simply dismissed, suspended or left to go free would be submitted to the police the following week together with full details. The amount of money lost was colossal he said. The other part of the NBC, the National Microfinance Bank (NMB) has started operations with support from ‘Development Alternative Incorporation’ of the USA which has brought in four full-time experts.
The EU has lifted its ban on the import of Tanzanian fish from lake Victoria but has not lifted the ban on Kenyan and Ugandan fish.
The Tanzania Telecommunications Co Ltd expects to earn Shs 80.4 billion this year -a record for the company. The TTCL was established in 1993 and in 1994 had earned only Shs 33.2 billion -Daily News.
The London-based international tribunal looking into the tariff dispute between TANESCO and the Malaysian-financed IPTL power project (see several recent issues of Tanzanian Affairs -Editor) decided that the case fell outside its jurisdiction.
The duty on imported second hand clothes was increased in October from $0.55 per kilo to $2.50. Wholesalers complained that they would have to pay Shs 25 million for a container load of 500 bales (each of 45 kgs) compared with Shs 5 million before.
The Tanzania Cotton Lint and Seed Board has established a Cotton Development Fund to help farmers in their purchase of cheaper pesticides and cotton seed at half the normal price and would also support education and research. The fund would obtain its revenue through a 3% levy on Free on Board (FOB) cotton prices -Daily News.
In its determination to harvest the maximum quantity of cloves the government increased the producer price to Shs 600 compared with Shs 400 a kilo for first grade cloves and closed schools for a month from August 20 to enable schoolchildren to take part in the harvest. They also sent a team of doctors from Mnazi Moja hospital to Pemba to treat people falling from clove trees.