Dar es Salaam. Development actors have challenged the government to address growing inequalities in three key pillars of public service delivery, progressive taxation and labor rights.
The call was made Friday during a breakfast debate organized by Policy Forum, based on a report titled The Crisis of Extreme Inequality in SADC: Fighting Austerity and the Covid-19 Pandemic, which shows a trend towards the rise.
The study measures and ranks the government’s policy choices on the three key pillars against the Commitment to Reducing Inequalities (CRI) Index in relation to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to the findings of the study, 14.08% was allocated to the education sector in the 2022/23 budget, placing Tanzania fourth among the countries of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc). .
“It is positive that the 2020/21 budget has increased to 16.2%. However, the current trend puts the country far from reaching the required budget for education for all by 20%”, indicates the report on the sector under service delivery.
Regarding the health sector, the report suggests that the expenditure budget of 5.4% is very low for the country, placing Tanzania last among SADC countries and 37th in Africa.
“More than half of the country’s population (57%) does not have access to essential health services and 4% of households have to pay more than 10% of their income to finance their treatment”, we read in part in The report.
In terms of social protection, the report shows that Tanzania is the second largest spender among SADC countries, with 23% of the budget.
“However, spending is mainly on civil service pensions, but most citizens still fall through the cracks, 86% are not covered by any social protection…and pension coverage is the second lowest of SADC countries at only 3.2%,” it read. The report.
It goes on to say that overall public spending on health, education and social protection reduces income inequality by 3.5%, placing Tanzania 13th out of 15 SADC countries.
On the tax pillar, the report states that Tanzania performs well in taxation, ranking it fifth out of 15 SADC countries and 39th globally, noting however that improvements are needed in areas non-progressive personal income tax (IRP), regressive value added tax (VAT) and tax collection.
“Tanzania ranks last among SADC countries and 144th globally on the labor rights pillar. It scores low on minimum wage and wage inequality.
“Tanzania is ranked 13th among SADC countries and 39th in Africa for labor rights, according to Penn State University’s 2017 Labor Rights Index,” the report said.
Discussing the results of the CRI Index study developed by Oxfam in partnership with Development Finance International (DFI), the National Pastoral Coordinator of the Episcopal Conference of Tanzania (TEC), Fr Florence Rutaihwa, said that despite government’s decision to abolish tuition fees for advanced secondary students, the challenge of overcrowded classrooms must be addressed.
“The proportionality of teachers in classrooms, especially in rural schools, should also be addressed. Spending in the health sector should also be increased as the 5.4% budget allocation is relatively low to address inequalities in the sector,” he said.
Fr Rutaihwa said most Tanzanians are not covered by health insurance, noting that those who are covered do not have access to good services, including essential drugs, at government health centres.
Regarding the budget allocated to the agricultural sector, Fr. Rutaihwa said that despite the promulgation of good policies aimed at promoting the sector, poor supervision, monitoring and evaluation have led to poor development of the sector.
The Chief Bishop of the Mennonite Church in Tanzania, Bishop Nelson Kisare, said that despite the waiver of tuition fees in upper secondary education, the provision of a grant to beneficiaries of the Social Action Fund of Tanzania (Tasaf) and increased expenditure in the agricultural sector, maximum tax collection and appropriate disbursement would reduce economic inequalities in the country.
“Despite the law governing tax collection, the wealthy and businessmen continue to evade taxes, leaving the poor as the main taxpayers,” Bishop Kisare said.
The Bishop who also serves as the Chairman of the Interfaith Standing Committee on Economic Justice and Integrity of Creation (ISCEJIC) urged the government to collect taxes efficiently and avoid bias.
National Muslim Council of Tanzania (Bakwata) health and social adviser Dr Salleh Abdallah said Tanzanian workers were being denied better wages and pensions.
“We have a responsibility to remind legislators and policy makers to treat workers fairly so that they can live a decent life even after retirement,” he said.
He said his experience working with HelpAge International in introducing universal health coverage (UHC) benefits for older people in Zanzibar enabled him to be among those who launched the policy in 2016.
“The goal was to reach people over the age of 70 who had no work history. Mainly, they are few in number, therefore mainland Tanzania can borrow a leaf from them,” he said.
The National Coordinator of the ACT Alliance Tanzania Forum, Reverend Modest Pesha, said that citizens are not well informed on tax issues and respective benefits.
He challenged the Bank of Tanzania to strategize on the issue of taxpayer education, expressing concerns that reported revenue might be underestimated or estimates might be unrealistic.
Women’s and children’s health rights activist Ms Festa Mwanyigili has urged the government to avoid double standards in paying pensions to retirees.
“While the majority of Tanzanians are eligible to receive a pension at age 55 or 60, civil servants, including legislators, receive their benefits after five years of public service have expired,” she said.
She blamed the transformation of health insurers into businesses instead of services, warning the government to be careful when preparing for CSU.
Reverend Andrew Munisi, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania’s Northern Diocese, said growing disparities between rich and poor were a threat, particularly in the areas of wages and health care.
“Having increased the agriculture budget to over 900 billion shillings, the government should address the challenges faced by Tanzanians at the local level and reduce inequalities,” he suggested.
The ISCEJIC Coordinator, Mr. Edmund Matotay, shared the progress of the Interfaith Committee’s engagement with the government on the establishment of the CSU.
He said the two sides had held different rounds of consultations, dialogues and discussions with the Ministry of Health, the Parliamentary Social Services Committee, organized awareness campaigns in nine regions and visited the Parliament in Dodoma.
“Yesterday (Thursday), the CCM decided to instruct the government on the execution of UHC, which is an important step in the fight given that more than 80% of the population does not have access to better services. health.” Speaking at the event, stakeholder Mrs. Florida Mbezi welcomed the increase in the agricultural budget to 4.6% in the 2022/23 financial year from 1.3% previously.
“However, strategies need to be put in place to lift farmers out of poverty. Otherwise, the increase in the budget will only benefit the rich and the businessmen and will increase the level of inequality,” she said.
Another stakeholder, Mrs. Kidani Mhenga, said that better universal health coverage services will be provided after the formulation of the strategy which will set the priorities.
“Disparities in universal health coverage should be actively addressed by the government to reduce if not eliminate inequalities in the country,” she said.