The decision by the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi’s (CCM) National Executive Committee (NEC) to call for the resumption of the constitutional making process is significant.
The ruling party’s Secretary for Ideology and Publicity Shaka Hamdu Shaka announced on June 22, 2022, that CCM has given the green light for the resuscitation of the process that was stalled in 2014 when the opposition rejected the Proposed Draft Constitution and walked out of the Constituent Assembly.
Although no timeline was issued, the announcement comes as a big relief to stakeholders after the government dragged its feet over the New Katiba for eight years.
It’s not lost on many stakeholders that CCM has made the announcement while MPs are debating the budget speech in the parliament.
Despite having adopted measures that would lessen the high cost of living and reduce wastage in government spending, MPs have been highly critical of the 2022/23 budget during the debates.
Many MPs have specifically expressed concerns over poor budget execution and over the narrow tax base; two things that have traditionally bedevilled implementation of government budgets in Tanzania.
While MPs’ concerns are justified the quality of their proposals for what should be done to rectify the situation has been poor.
None of them has been able to see the clear link between poor budget execution and an inadequate Constitution that is Tanzania’s. And as a result, they have remained mum over the Minister of Finance’s failure to mention or allocate any cent for the constitution-making process in the 2022/23 fiscal year.
And yet the truth is that budget implementation is a constitutional matter as it involves the exercise of legal powers by various institutions from revenue collection to expenditure.
It follows then that budget execution is difficult in an environment with an inadequate Constitution and weak rule of law. As a matter of fact, there is no place where the concept of checks and balances assumes more meaning than during budget execution.
The rot revealed in the annual Controller and Auditor General reports is partly because the constitutional checks and balance mechanisms are weak. And as the budget is an important catalyst in stimulating economic growth it follows that an inadequate Constitution translates into a weaker economy notwithstanding the availability of abundant natural resources.
MPs should take CCM’s announcement as a cue and rally behind demands for a New Constitution. One thing that the New Constitution should address is the issue of presidential powers. They are too much and augur badly for Tanzania’s stable economic and political future.
Too much presidential powers could be directly linked to the perennial problem of economic policy unpredictability in Tanzania; probably Tanzania’s biggest economic malaise.
What MPs, the ruling party and other stakeholders should understand is that policy unpredictability has put a dent in Tanzania’s investment image since the Arusha Declaration of 1967.
The issue is when investors can’t predict what will happen in the next 10 years they won’t invest in the long-term. If they do, they will demand too many concessions from the government in terms of incentives and guarantees.
And because the government wants to attract strategic investors so badly it will acquiesce to investors’ demands.
The unpopular mining laws, for example, which caused a public uproar for decades before they were finally changed, were a result of a government going out of its way to attract investments in the capital and technology-intensive mining sector.
As it happened in the mining sector giving out too many incentives leads to more policy unpredictability for investors. Since she took office President Samia Suluhu Hassan has ushered in a lot of reforms that have reversed some adverse conditions in doing business in Tanzania.
As a result investors, domestic and foreign, have started putting their money into the economy, as such offering hope for better days ahead. But the issue is; what happens when President Samia leaves power after her term expires?
Will her successor continue to build on where she started? Will he or she reverse course and destroy what she built? If the Constitution remains the same, with the imperial presidential powers intact, there is no telling which policy direction her successor would take.
New Constitution is the answer
The New Constitution is a good starting point. The Constitution should deal with the presidential powers and the capacity of the President to interfere in economic policy. The mother law should also be specific in as far as economic policies are concerned.
Constitutional checks and balances should be cemented with the consolidation of the powers of the legislature and the judiciary which should be used, in turn, to ensure the protection of the economy, respect and enforcement of business contracts, treaties and agreements.
Obviously, it will take years for investors’ confidence in the economy to be restored permanently but we have to start somewhere. And until the New Constitution is promulgated MPs will continue to complain about budgets that are unimplementable for years to come.
Damas Kanyabwoya is a journalist and a political analyst based in Dar es Salaam. He’s available at email@example.com. His Twitter handle is @DKanyabwoya. These are the writer’s own opinions and it does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo Initiative. Want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at firstname.lastname@example.org for further inquiries.