First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to convey our sincere appreciation as civil society organizations to be given an opportunity to give a short statement during this opening ceremony of the Poverty Policy Week for the year 2013. This invitation is considered as yet another positive gesture by our Government in valuing the contribution and partnership of civil society organizations in the fight against poverty and attainment of the development goals of our country.
We in civil society highly value any opportunity for dialogue on development issues related to our country and our continent in general. We therefore highly value this opportunity given to us to participate in various discussions during the coming three days. We believe that we will learn a lot from the discussions and also contribute to those discussions.
This year’s theme is “Scaling up Best Practices and Maximizing Potential Opportunities for Sustainable Pro-Poor and Inclusive Growth”. We think this is a very relevant theme given the current socio-economic environment and the experiences and achievements we have had so far as a country, in fighting poverty and ensuring pro-poor and inclusive growth. We will utilize this opportunity to share the experiences and especially the best practices of civil society sector in contributing to pro-poor and inclusive growth.
The Guest of Honour,
Secondly, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly highlight three issues that we believe need reflection and time for discussion, either during this week or during the coming weeks and months.
1. Post-2015 New Development Agenda
During the coming three days, among other things, we will be looking at the achievements, challenges and prospects in fighting poverty through the implementation of MKUKUTA, MKUZA and MDGs. This is highly appreciated and commended, it is our hope we will get lessons that will help us all intensify our efforts to fight poverty and enhance growth. However, we would like to note that globally discussions are advanced in shaping the post-2015 new development agenda when the current MDGs are coming to an end in the year 2015. A report of the High Level Panel Chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia is already out and has identified five transformative shifts, namely, (i) Leave No One Behind (ii) Put Sustainable Development at the Core (iii) Transform Economies for Jobs and Inclusive Growth (iv) Build Peace and Effective, Open and Accountable Public Institutions (v) Forge a new Global Partnership. The report has also proposed a set of 12 illustrative goals with corresponding targets and indicators. It is our view that we should sit together as a country and interrogate the report and see to what extent it fits our needs beyond 2015. We think of importance to the development agenda of our country will be the changing context compared to our socio-economic situation when the current MDGs were formulated. 15 years ago, we were considered a “basket case” with little internal resources that could be utilized to spur growth and reduce poverty, but by the year 2015, our country will probably be a “treasure chest” case with resources that, if well utilized, could act as a catalyst in economic growth and in our fight against poverty. The challenge ahead of us, which we think needs continuous dialogue among all stakeholders, is how best we can make use of the gas and other resources currently being explored to eliminate abject poverty by the year 2025.
2. Reduction of poverty versus the quality of education
We Non State Actors believe that reduction of poverty depends much on how a country is capable addressing the problem of access to equal quality education. There is correlation between the quality of education, the quality of labour and reduction of poverty. The higher the quality of education, the higher the quality of labour hence the higher the likelihood of reducing poverty either through better employment or self-employment including more productive agriculture. We all know that the best inheritance to the future generation is high quality education including adequate skills for global competitiveness. This is the only way to secure the future of every child and youth in Tanzania. Therefore as we are discussing best practices for ensuring pro-poor growth and inclusive development we should also critically look at the question of the quality of our education and the skills obtained from it, and what are the available best practices.
3. Governance and Accountability as the bedrock of pro-poor and inclusive growth
As we will be discussing the various best practices for pro-poor and inclusive growth, we should all be reminded that governance and accountability are still the bedrock of poverty reduction, or equitable pro-poor and inclusive growth. And hence, we should look at the best practices to ensure good governance and accountability. We should also interrogate the trend in governance and accountability over the last couple of years to see whether the trend contributes positively to equitable growth. We have seen, for example, during the April session, the Parliament shelved the discussions of the CAG report. The reason given for that decision was limited time. We believe that discussion of the CAG report is the single most important oversight role of the Parliament over the Government. And public scrutiny of the conduct of the Government through public debate over the CAG report is the best practice in governance and accountability role of our Parliament, hence we urge the Parliament to always make the time needed to play their most important fiduciary responsibility.
On a different but related issue to governance and accountability, we would urge all stakeholders to find time and seriously interrogate our country’s performance in the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI). The WGI report six aggregate governance indicators for over 200 countries and territories over the period 1996 – 2012 covering i) Voice and Accountability, ii)Political Stability and Absence of Violence, iii)Government Effectiveness, iv) Regulatory Quality v)Rule of Law, and vi) Control of Corruption. Out of these six indicators, our performance in at least three of them has been declining over the last five to six years. The data shows that Government Effectiveness, Rule of Law and Control of Corruption have been declining consistently over the last five to six years, with the steepest decline being observed in the control of corruption which has declined from 50 Percentile Ranking in the year 2006 to just over 20 Percentile Ranking in the year 2012, and if this trend continues unabated, it may reach the 1996 level of about 15 Percentile ranking which is the lowest level recorded for our country. Since we still strongly believe that Governance and Accountability is the bedrock of our pro-poor and inclusive growth efforts, we strongly urge that all of us stakeholders need to contribute ideas and efforts to change these worrying trends. We also believe addressing these issues will assist in addressing the increasing inequality which we think needs to be tackled before it reaches critical levels.
On the other hand, we would like to commend the government for initiating the Big Results Now Initiative and signing on to the Open Government Partnership which is an international voluntary partnership of Governments committed to serving their people in a more transparent and accountable manner. Our urge to the Government is two-fold. First, these two initiatives should be linked. The Results Commitment should be open to public scrutiny as part of the Open Government Partnership. And BRN should not be treated like a political slogan but a serious re-orientation of public service delivery systems in which all officials are geared towards achieving Measurable Big Results Now. We believe without robust OGP, it will be difficult to achieve BRN.
Our second request to the Government and all other stakeholders is to work together to remove all contradictions to our OGP commitments. These include addressing issues related to Access to Information and Freedom of the Press. For example, committing to an Open Government and banning a newspaper for publishing salary scales of public servants is a contradiction that erodes our commitment to run our country in a more transparent and open way.
The Guest of Honour,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Once again, I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the Government for recognizing the Civil Society Sector and inviting us to participate in this Poverty Policy Week, and it is our hope that the next three days of deliberations will give each one of us a new impetus to fight poverty and contribute to pro-poor and inclusive development for our country.
I thank you for your attention