Workers in Tanzania today join those in other parts of the world in marking May Day, which is dedicated to efforts to improve their lot.
Every May Day, workers, just like the rest of other people take rime off their routine schedules to rest and ponder over how the world we live in was built with the sweat, toil and intelligence of their predecessors.
It is time when they reflect on the kind of world they crave for and the implementation of programmes aimed at further liberating the working population across the globe from the shackles of poverty, oppression and dehumanisation.
It is during this time that workers’ organisations and governments award the best performers of the year, with a view to motivating those who make national and world economies tick.
However, recent developments show that a new scenario has been emerging in the world of workers in that May Day is no longer as iconic, promising or happy as it used to be. Owing to the hard time they are facing, many workers now seldom take it as their day.
The last three to four years have seen the world economy translate into crippling inflation manifested in horrendously high prices of food and various other essential items in homes, workplaces, etc. This has meant social and economic conditions weighing heavily on workers and the entire society.
With the price hikes, people and institutions without exception are finding it extremely hard to make both ends meet – with workers, who belong to society’s lower classes, ending up in very deep trouble.
While a kilo of rice cost at most 1,500/- only as recently as last year, it has since more than doubled. The situation is much similar in respect of maize flour, sugar, meat, fish, beans and indeed all but a few food items.
A medium-size sack of charcoal, previously fetching 15,000/- at most, now sells at 40,000/- or a little more – depending on location, the weather and availability.
Even worse, and mainly as a consequence of this conspiracy of factors, it would be no surprise seeing a rise in the number of people who cannot afford even a single square meal.
This is a genuine representation of the plight of many ordinary workers, who are expected to “celebrate their big day” regardless of the odds.
This scenario calls for serious policy measures to bail out the poor workers so they can really serve as a catalyst in unlocking our ailing economy.
For instance, the tax regime could be revised to reducing the burden the workers and other ordinary people currently have to bear – many simply because they pay PAYE and can’t escape the deductions.
There is an urgent need to improve workers’ benefits so as to raise their purchasing power and, by extension, reinvigorate the economy, this alongside keeping the prices of basic needs in constant check.
There is also a need to revisit the import checklist, the focus being in part on needless custom duty exemptions known to erode government revenue.
Interventions of this nature will be sure to improve the lot of workers and other ordinary citizens, truly giving them cause to celebrate May Day.