November 28, 1999
'Tests on fish from Lake Victoria' prove negative
*EU Report to be put on Internet
LIFTING the Lake Victoria fish imports ban imposed on East African countries by the European Union (EU) is now entirely in the hands of the union, following testing which has proved negative in so far as toxic materials and contamination of the fish is concerned.
Some water, fish and mud from lake Victoria were taken as samples for diagnosing fish contamination. The exercise took place in the Netherlands, and the tests proved negative.
Zakia Meghji, Tanzanias tourism and natural resource minister, told Business Times in an exclusive interview that information reaching us shows that samples which were taken for testing have not indicated the presence of any toxic materials, or contamination".
Meghji said what was now being awaited was EUs decision on its previous stand, which had led to the ban. She was of the opinion that the issue could be discussed in meeting that were likely to be held any time "from November 20 and the first week of December this year. We except a decision could possibly be made then," she said.
Renieri Sabatucci, the First Secretary at the UE Offices in Tanzania, told Business Times that one of the items on the agenda during the meeting was the fish ban and "food safety".
Sabatucci said "it was the Governments role to test and satisfy itself on the quality of the product," while the UE look at the measures being employed by the Government to enhance fish quality.
He said EUs teams of inspector had recently come to the country to look at the system in place, and to verify what the Government was doing about it.
"The EU had embarked on a number of test", he said, adding that the findings were compiled into a report."
Sabatucci said EU inspectors had been given 25 days to prepare a draft report, beginning from mind-August to the end of September this. "It was then sent to the Tanzania Government for comment" before it was forwarded to EU headquarter in Bruxelles.
He said the final Report, which is the last stages of preparation, will be available to the public through the Internet.
Meghji said EU had wanted the testing of samples to be conducted in Holland, a decision which was agreed to by Tanzania. "We had agreed that samples testing could be done anywhere in the world because we wanted to show them how serious we were about the issue."
Despite the EU ban, countries like the United States of America, the Middle East and Japan have continued to purchases fish from the East African countries
"These countries have kept on buying our fish products" said Meghji; and "I am negotiating to extend our market to Korea through our Ambassador as a marketing alternative."
Some parliamentarians who were interviewed have shown doubt over the EU ban. If other countries have continued baying products from the same source (Lake Victoria), then how valid is the ban, they have been asking.
The ban raised alarm and concern in East Africa. Tanzanias president Benjamini William Mkapa was quoted by Cable News Network (CNN) as saying that continuation of the ban without scientific evidence to support it was raising eyebrows on trade relationship between the rich and poor countries.
The local fish industry has continued to suffer as a result of the ban.
Following the continuing ban, many industries along the shores of lake Victoria have slashed their workforces in order to ameliorate business costs.
Media reports have it that around 2,000 workers have been laid off while about 20,000 artisanal fisherman and suppliers of raw fish to seven factories in the Mwanza municipality alone have been adversely affected by the ban.
About 70 per cent of fish fillet from Lake Victoria is exported to the EU.
Tanzania has been losing about Tsh 80 million each day since the EU imposed the ban on Lake Victoria fish, as exports there of declined from 80 to 36 tonnes a day.
On March 30 this year, the EU re-imposed a total ban on fresh and frozen fish imports from Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, citing alleged poison- fishing in Lake Victoria. Tanzania has continued to maintain its stand that fishing in Lake Victoria is poison-free.
November 20, 1999
NATIONAL IDENTITY CARDS IN THE OFFING
PRODUCTION and issuance of national identity cards (ID Cards) is expected to start soon and, in any case, before the general elections next October.
In an interview with Business Times, the deputy minister for home affairs, John Mgeja said that- among other things- the ID Cards are aimed at curbing the influx of illegal immigrants into the country.
"Regions bordering the country will be given top priority during the issuance of the ID cards so that an influx of illegal aliens across the borders is controlled," he commented.
Tanzania is said to be harbouring over 750,000 illegal immigrants most of whom come from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, India, Korea, Malaysia and Italy. Some of then work as painters/decorators of buildings, drivers for foreign-based companies, and hair dressers in the city.
"The absence of national identity cards contributes to the increased influx of illegal immigrants, as they easily beat the system and finally settle and work in the country illegally," the immigration officer, Herbert Chilambo commented to Business Times.
On the delay of the production and eventual issuance of the ID cards, Mgeja admitted that financial constraints that the Government is facing, and the high cost of production, stalled the exercise for the past two years.
"The production cost was huge indeed," Mgeja reminisced; "but the Government has now acquired its own machine within the ministry of home affairs, and were currently directing all our efforts to have the cards printed before the forthcoming general elections."
Added the minister: "We first contracted a UK firm do the job; but we later on decided to do the job ourselves-after finding that their costs were too high. The plant has already been installed although it is not yet already very soon".
The Regional Services Limited, a Kenya-based British company, won the tender to supply 20 million ID cards, for which the Government of Tanzania deposited USD 2 million with the company as surety.
The USD 60 million deal was, however, terminated by the Government last year after it found that the cost were unbearably high. The project, which was expected to employ 300 people, would have been handed over to the Government of Tanzania after three-and-a-half years had elapsed.
"Issuance of the cards will not be panacea to the influx of immigrants; but we need to intensify our security; and thats why were requesting the international community to assist us in production identity cards for refugees," observed Mgeja.
The ID cards are also aimed at helping the country during population census exercises; checking of haphazard citizenship procedures, and in establishing a permanent register for voters during elections.
Responding to the question to what extent the lack of ID cards would affect the envisaged East African Cooperation (EAC) Treaty, the deputy minister said: "The cards have less-or no- negative impact on the EAC Treaty, because they do not guarantee free movement in the region. The East African passports can guarantee that".
He added that the East African passports-which are already in use in Tanzania, and are sold at Tshs7000-enable Tanzanians to travel freely, while the ID cards have the key role of curbing immigrants.
"The passports, which are currently being printed in Dar Es Salaam," said Mgeja, "will also be made in Zanzibar."
Mgeja added that the Government is currently evaluating the type of materials that can be used in producing the cards in terms of costs, portability and data storage.
Kenya is the only East African country whose citizen have been carrying ID cards since its colonial days.
Tanzania has about 31 million people, 16.4 million of whom are eligible for the ID cards. So far, a Tanzanian passport-which costs Tshs 20,000-is the only legal identification document available to Tanzanians.
November 13, 1999
POWER TARIFF REDUCTION AWAITS CABINET APPROVAL
GOVERNMENT proposals on power tariff reduction have been submitted to the Presidents Office for a decision.
A high ranking government official close to the Presidents Office told Business Times that implementation is yet to take effect due to the fact that thorough evaluation must be done first.
Before the government decides to lower electricity tariffs, a lot of things have to be examined including the impact of the cost element on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), said the official adding: Reduction of power tariffs is a very complicated thing contrary to many peoples under standing."
According to Business Times investigations, a paper proposing reduction of power tariffs had already been prepared by the ministry of energy and minerals.
The investigations further revealed that a series of meetings are currently being held in the Presidents Office on the tariff rates reduction, and its possible implications.
When reached for comment, Daniel Mshana, the public relations manager at the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (TANESCO) said the power firm had completed all prerequisites for implementation as may be necessary.
"The progamme has reached an advanced stage as far as tariff redaction is concerned. But, for more information, contact the permanent secretary in the ministry of energy and minerals," Mshana said.
Neither Patrick Rutabanzibwa the permanent secretary in the ministry concerned nor Julius Sarota, the ministrys liaison officer, were available for comment: they were said to be attending a meeting at the State House in Dar es Salaam.
Further investigations by this newspaper revealed that reaching decision thereof seems to be difficult, considering impact of tariff reduction on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Presenting his ministrys budget estimates last July, the minister for energy and minerals, Dr. Abdallah Kigoda, told the National Assembly that the government would reduce tariff rates on electricity by between 30 and 50 per cent, effective this financial year.
"... In all SADC (southern Africa Development Community), and the East African regions, Tanzanians electricity tariffs are the highest, (thus ) affecting production in our industries. The agricultural sector and water ......., said Kigoda
However, the government has been silent on the matter since then.
This has created doubts, anxiety and confusion among power consumers and prospective investors.
"Investors have been making inquiries on the matter; so the government must act quickly, and come out with a perfect implementation programme commented Emmanuel Ole Naiko, the director of investment promotion at the Tanzania Investment Centre.
On his part, the vice president of the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) Ravi Chande, said such a delay has an adverse impact on industrialists, as they are currently incurring heavy costs which could be alleviated by a tariff reduction.
"May be the announcement was made prematurely; but, whatever is the case, a decision must be made and implemented as soon as possible_ considering that were expecting more power generation soon, as the Kihansi project nears its completion, "argued Chande.
Sharad Salagar, the Chief executive of Aluminum Africa, is reportedly awaiting reduction of tariff rates before his company resumes production of steel castings. Production was suspended last year due to high production costs_ including electricity charges.
Senior officials of cement manufacturing companies in Tanzania told this paper that their product was rather expensive due to high production costs related to high power tariffs, compared to those in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
November 6, 1999
Export earnings fall
by 10 per cent
TANZANIAS export earning on the world market have declined by more than 10 per cent during the past twelve months since July last year.
According to the annual economic and operation of the Bank of Tanzania which was released in June 1999, Tanzania export earnings significantly declined to USD 540.5 million (Tsh378.35 billion) during the fiscal year 1998/99, down from USD 612.6 million (Tsh 428.82 billion) during the fiscal year 1997/98.
This fall in earnings was attributed to unfavourable weather conditions and low international prices paid for export commodities.
This is the lowest level of export earning ever recorded for the past five years, the bank report says in part.
The report also reveals that, during the period 1998/99, traditional export earnings declined due to lower export volumes and commodity prices.
Although coffee and cashew nut exports increased significantly in volume, this could not offset the big fall in the export volume of cotton, tobacco pyrethrum, tea and sisal.
The averge price per unit for coffee-Tanzanias major export earner-decreased by more than 20 per cent; while that of cotton dropped by about 15 per cent.
Other traditional exports which experienced decrease in price were tea, tobacco and sisal-which fell by 2.3, 30 and 23 per cent respectively.
The biggest contributor to the export earnings were cashew nuts which had benefited from an increase in prices at the worlds market, as well as favourable weather conditions enjoyed by cashew nut farmers. Yet, this could not offset the fall in earnings regarding other commodities. According to the Banks report for the first time in the export history of Tanzania, cashew nuts earned Tanzania more than USD 97.5 million (Tshs 68.25 billion), in year 1998/99. This contrasted with the usual practice where coffee used to the leading export earner.
Export earnings from cashew nuts had been lagging behind coffee and cotton most of the time
-except for the year ending June 1999, when its export earnings rose to a record USD 97.5 million (Tsh 68.25), up from USD74.8 million (Tsh52.36 billion ) the previous year.
The ratio of non-traditional exports to total export earnings has increased by more than 40 per cent; and is increasing very fast. But the industrial sector is not performing to the satisfaction of Tanzanian expectations
Earning from the non-traditional export commodities have decreased by about 10 per cent to USD 232.7 million (Tsh 162.89 billion).
Although there was an increase in earning from non-traditional export commodities during the fiscal year ending June 30,1999, a decrease in earnings from petroleum products minerals, manufactured sisal and tobacco were recorded.