Where is my Magufuli? How to Champion Fiscal Discipline and Good Governance

By Caesar Cheelo

How are economic policies crafted? How are they implemented? Whose responsibility is it to champion good economic management through the implementation of sound policies?

I tend to think that all these issues ultimately depend on the political choices of a particular society or economy. Take Tanzania for instance, informal reports about President John Magufuli have continued to circulate on social media.

Since being sworn in as president on 5th November 2015, Magufuli has continuously cracked down on social and economic vices like corruption and wasteful fiscal spending, drawing on the law and on existing Government policies. He has radically changed the state of economic governance in his country, taking the reign of policy implementation directly upon himself.

In case you think I am exaggerating, here is a snapshot of what President Magufuli has been up to lately:

"President Magufuli says no more foreign travel, embassies will take care of foreign business; special permission to be sought from President or Chief Secretary for foreign travel; no more first class and business class travel for Government officials except for President, Vice President and Prime Minister."

"President Magufuli cuts list of 50 person delegation to tour commonwealth countries down to 4 people (from 50), saving costs on tickets, accommodation and per diems."

When going to officially open parliament, President Magufuli did not travel by plane; he drove the whole 600km from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma. He has also reduced the size of the presidential convoy, and even reduced the size of presidential delegates that travels with the president.

Magufuli directs that no more workshops and seminars should be held in hotels when so many ministries have board rooms; no more sitting allowances when Government officials get a monthly salary for the work they do in meetings.

"President Magufuli cuts State dinner budget from TSh300m to TSh25m and orders that savings be used to purchase beds for Muhimbili hospital".

"Magufuli cancels 9th December Independence Day ceremonies to save money for more pressing issues and refocuses the day on cleaning up the environment".

President Magufuli questions why Government engineers are given luxury V8s when pick-ups are more suitable for their jobs.

In November 2015, President Magufuli ordered the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to scrap all tax exemptions because everyone must pay taxes, especially the ‘big guys’. He went to Muhimbili Hospital unannounced and walked through its worst parts, which are typically kept hiding from important visitors; he fired the director, fired the hospital board and ordered that all machines that were not working be repaired within two weeks or else he would fire more of the hospital management; the machines were repaired in three days.

Magufuli directs that "all individuals and firms that bought State owned companies during the privatization but did not do anything with them over the 20 years since should either revive the industries immediately or hand them back to the Government".

Magufuli is essentially eliminating corruption and political patronage. Apparently when he was confirmed as the winner of the presidential elections people wanted to take congratulatory gifts to his place. He turned them back, opting to receive all congratulatory messages over the phone.

But guess what? Magufuli earned his Bachelor of Science degree in education from the University of Dar es Salaam (in 1988). He majored in chemistry and mathematics as teaching subjects. He is not an economist, lawyer or similar "seemingly-infallible", "know-it-all" professional. But his actions reflect nobility at its best; he is a servant of his citizens and a true teacher.

Back home in Zambia, the economic governance landscape can be very gloomy at times. With many headwinds or challenges forcing a deepening economic downturn, particular since 2015, the economy finds itself in need of serious Magufulieconomic Governance. Economic recovery is possible for Zambia. The responsibility to achieve this rests with the country's political leadership. As I look into the future, a key question I have frequently asked myself is: "where is my Magufuli?" If Zambia can find its own brand of Magufulieconomic Governance then most likely we will soon be on our way towards economic recovery. If not, the current economic malaise may well persist.

The Author is a Researcher at the Zambia Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (ZIPAR). For comments send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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