Last Sunday, our sister newspaper, The Guardian on Sunday published a well-detailed front-page story outlining reasons why the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) couldn’t get a Sh408 billion loan from a consortium of local banks. And this apparent failure to raise the money is coming almost a year since Parliament endorsed the loan to finance a comprehensive power rescue package.
Let’s be clear about this at the outset: the banks aren’t saying they are unwilling to lend the state power utility; rather, it’s the usual yarn that some bureaucrats love to spin within the government, especially those at Treasury, who we believe are creating a façade to mask their own lack of resolve to act on the deal.
It’s just as clear that the loan was part of a Sh523 billion power rescue package which the august House endorsed on August 13, 2011, specifically aimed at resolving a running, if erratic, power shedding ravaging the country’s economy at the time.
In other words, the loan was meant to prevent a bad situation from getting worse; in crude terms, it was an emergency calling for immediate action. As it turns out, an emergency is indeed an emergency – as long as we do not mind how long it takes! It has since taken nine long months of negotiations, and there is yet no clue of a breakthrough in sight. Who is fooling who, if we may ask?
Incredibly, as some of these mandarins at Treasury hold back progress on this deal for nine whole months, no one seems to getting the danger blips on the radar, at least not from the country’s top leadership, from whom the public expects to see some serious intervention.
Do we have to wait for another angry rejection of budgets by Parliament before those tasked with okaying the deal are goaded into action? For sure, the Members of Parliament who endorsed it nine months ago aren’t running on short memory; they as everyone else can no longer wait to be told the truth: will the loan be secured – finally?.
We acknowledge the role that Tanesco and its parent ministry (Energy and Minerals) are playing, and have played, with regard to the loan, but red tape remains the main barrier, fuelled mainly by lack of seriousness on the part of Treasury officials.
This country paid dearly through those 18 months of erratic power shutdowns, from which Tanesco suffered financial losses amounting to Sh420 billion in forgone revenue even as the country’s economy was almost brought to its knees. Some 50 companies either closed down, or were being forced to reduce their production by 50 percent.
We are told that every single unit of electricity which is not produced and supplied costs the economy Sh1,749 ($1.10), but those costs are reduced to a fraction (Sh300) when power is available and running.
Having gone through the agony of the endless load shedding schedules one wouldn’t expect some junior officials at Treasury to use their positions to delay Tanesco’s loan. If it takes government officials nine whole months of endless meetings just to discuss a Sh408 billion loan at a time when the nation is in a power crisis, then we are in more trouble as a country than we realize.
An eminent expert on bureaucracy, Alan Keyes, once wrote, “Bureaucracies are inherently antidemocratic. Bureaucrats derive their power from their position in the structure, not from their relations with the people they are supposed to serve. The people are not masters of the bureaucracy, but its clients.”
This observation is borne out by the fact that today Tanesco and Tanzanians are not the masters of bureaucrats at Treasury; both the utility firm and the people are clients of a system that behaves as if they do not exist.
While Tanesco faces dire financial doldrums – soon to pull everyone of us into another cycle of crude blackouts -- some of those at Treasury are drawing lots of money in sitting allowances for endless non-productive meetings. As if this isn’t enough insult, they are taking us for a ride, too.
Ironically, if things were to worsen – and another power shedding regime resumes – it will be Tanesco, not the Treasury officials, who will suffer the butt of political whipping by politicians out to make capital out everyone’s misery.
We, therefore, strongly believe that this is not just bureaucratic ineptitude but economic sabotage at work. Those bureaucrats at Treasury are economic saboteurs whose acts will cost this country very dearly.
That’s why today we ask: just how serious is the government in helping Tanesco produce and distribute not only reliable but affordable power for the country?
The loan apart, this government also promised to dole out Sh80 billion as subsidy before this July (read this year). But as we go to print this editorial, not a single pledge had been translated into shillings for the troubled state power utility.