In Tanzania, new president’s war on waste wins support

December 3, 2015 2:02 pm
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Magufuli cancelled Independence Day celebrations - due next week - traditionally a time for the government to spend big on a public display of nationalism/FILE
Magufuli cancelled Independence Day celebrations – due next week – traditionally a time for the government to spend big on a public display of nationalism/FILE
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Dec 3 -In a not-so-subtle rebuke of his predecessors, Tanzania’s new President John Magufuli has displayed unusual zeal for austerity and impatience with corruption and waste since taking office a month ago.

Magufuli cancelled Independence Day celebrations – due next week – traditionally a time for the government to spend big on a public display of nationalism.

“It is so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera,” Magufuli said.

The time is to be spent instead on street-cleaning to improve sanitation and arrest the spread of a cholera outbreak.

He also downsized by more than 90 percent the budget for the opulent state dinner that usually marks the opening of parliament.

Money saved has been spent on hospital beds and roadworks.

Since taking office in early November, Magufuli has cancelled foreign travel for officials, banned the purchase of first-class air tickets — although the president, his deputy and prime minister are exempt — ordered that government meetings and workshops be held in government buildings rather than expensive hotels, and cut a bloated delegation of 50 people set to tour Commonwealth countries to just four.

Instead of sponsoring a World AIDS Day exhibition this week, Magufuli ordered the money be spent on anti-retroviral drugs for AIDS sufferers.

He has turned up in person — and on foot — at government ministries and demanded to know why civil servants were not at their desks.

Some officials have been jailed for lateness, the head of the tax authority has been suspended and the use of public funds to pay for Christmas and New Year greeting cards banned, according to local media.

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