By Samuel Kamndaya and Sharon Sauwa
Dodoma — The government said yesterday there was no concrete evidence the economy has not been performing well in recent months.
Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa told Parliament that it was difficult for the government to come up with a definitive answer without carrying out an in-depth study.
His remarks came in the wake of concern raised by opposition leaders that the economy has been slowing down in the last few months.
Official figures published by the National Bureau of Statistics show that Tanzania’s GDP grew by 5.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2016 compared with 5.7 per cent in the corresponding period of 2015.
And yesterday, the Leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, Mr Freeman Mbowe, said that reports of a steep drop in the volume of cargo passing through Dar es Salaam Port were an indication that all was not well with the economy.
He said some transport companies had decided to close their operations in Tanzania, and asked Mr Majaliwa to tell what the government was doing to reverse the situation.
“Some transport companies have reduced their operations by up to 40 per cent, while others have relocated to neighbouring countries because of uncertainty in the business environment in Tanzania. Is the government aware of this? What steps is it taking to address the situation?” Mr Mbowe asked.
Mr Majaliwa said in response that it could not be concluded that the economy was slowing down by just looking at the amount of cargo that passed through Dar es Salaam Port.
“To ascertain whether or not the economy is doing well, we need to carry out a comprehensive analysis, including of areas you have just mentioned.”
Mr Majaliwa said the government would not sit back and do nothing if it was indeed true the economy was in reverse.
But Mr Mbowe said there was no need for the government to carry out a new study, and should instead refer to data compiled by the Bank of Tanzania and conclusions made by several parliamentary committees.
“When the relevant parliamentary committee tells you that there is a sharp decrease in the amount of goods passing through our ports; when transporters are complaining; when the number of tourists visiting our country is going down; when hotels are being shut and turned into hostels, what kind of data do you need to know that the economy is performing poorly?” posed Mr Mbowe.
He said the Opposition would like Mr Majaliwa to tell the august House what steps the government was taking to address the situation.
In his response, Mr Majaliwa told MPs that the government was already taking a number of measures to improve the situation at Dar es Salaam Port.
He said the government was seeking the advice of a number of countries that were operating successful ports, adding that he recently talked to prominent businesspeople, including some who also own shipping lines, in Singapore
Mr Majaliwa noted, however, that the drop in cargo was a global phenomenon blamed on lower oil and gas prices in the world market.
The leader of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo, Mr Zitto Kabwe, earlier this week said the economy – which grew by 7 per cent in 2015 and is projected to grow by 7.2 per cent this year – was slowing down, and blamed the trend on some of the government’s actions.
He said “reckless rhetoric” by the Head of State was bad for the economy, and appealed to retired presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and Jakaya Kikwete to “restrain” Dr Magufuli.