Thursday, December 31, 2009

TZ private sector lauds US$ 1.5 billion stimulus

Saturday, 12 December 2009
DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA - The private sector in Tanzania has applauded the seven trillion (about $1.5 billion) economic stimulus package that was put in place by President Jakaya Kikwete to support exporters of agriculture commodities.
The money was given by the government in order to mitigate the effects of the global financial crisis.

"The central bank (BoT) Governor and his committee are working on the assessment of the impact of the stimulus package, expect that by mid January next year the report will be published," Tanzania's Minister for Finance & Economic Affairs Mustafa Mkullo noted.

The financial year 2009/2010 package ending in June 2010 was given to commercial banks to bail out exporters.Banks were given the package to save them from losses caused by the fall in prices and the demand for agricultural commodities due to the global financial crisis.

The major effects of the crisis included the reduction in the number of tourist arrivals, falls in exports demand in the world markets, a fall in remittances, reduction in government revenue among others.

Information from the Bank of Tanzania indicates that the economy growth declined to between 2.4% and 5% this year from the 7.5% recorded last year.The Executive Director for Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS), Bernard Kihiyo, said the stimulus package has helped to strengthen the banking institutions which are lending to the productive sectors of the economy. The Director General for Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO), Mike Laizer, said that the package has been instrumental in reviving the financial and agriculture sectors.

"The package was a must for Tanzania's financial sector because without the backing up for the financial sector, the businesses in marketing and packaging of agricultural goods would have collapsed," Laizer said.

He called for a review of the taxation regime especially taxes applied to small producers, including the counterproductive six per cent training levy,"

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Tanzania: financial reforms fail on consumer protection

Friday, 27 November 2009 11:51 Written by Administrator
ALTHOUGH Tanzania has taken major efforts to reform the banking and financial institutions sector over the last two decades, the issue of consumer protection has remained virtually untouched by the 'reforms.

'This situation has led to increasing abuse of good business practices by many of the financial institutions and banks, as well as a singular lack of fairness and transparency in dealing with customers."The providers of financial services in Tanzania need to understand that, as long as they continue to gain unfairly from their customers.... they are nonetheless sowing the seeds of their own destruction...," said Daimon Mwakyembe, chairman of the Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS).

Presenting a paper recently on 'The Quality of Financial Services: a Critique From Consumers' Perspective,' Mwakyembe cited as an example of bad practice the banks and financial institutions which “have continued to overcharge consumers in terms of fees, interest rates and commissions – while others reject low income consumers out of hand as 'unbankable.'”The occasion was a forum organized by the Government Controller & Auditor-General (CAG) in the nation's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

TCAS is a private, voluntary nongovernmental, non-partisan and nonprofit making organization that was registered as a company limited by guarantee in July 2007 under the Companies Act of 2002 (Chapter 212 of the Laws of Tanzania). The Society’s mission is to provide an advocacy platform that would make consumers' voices heard, raise consumers' awareness of their rights, build consumers' ability to claim their rights, as well as make markets accountable and more responsive to consumers' needs and interests.

Observers say most of the banks and financial institutions operating in Tanzania siphon billions of shillings off their customers as a matter of course. This is partly becauseof the latter's ignorance of their rights and dues, and partly because the reforms and extant legislation are silent on the matter.

Mwakyembe – who is a former director-general of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) – said despite the reforms, fairness and transparency in the treatment of customers is not always ensured... And lack of capability on the part of customers is still being exploited negatively.As a result, there is no mechanisms on how to curb abusive business practices by financial institutions at the national and international levels, and which adversely affect consumers.

Mwakyembe suggested that the (central) Bank of Tanzania and other relevant authorities need to urgently review the extant financial regulatory policies and legislation. The main objective this time should be to ensure that they – among things – reflect a wide view of consumer protection on ensuring proper business conduct.

It is noted that the Bank of Tanzania, which has the mandate to supervise the banking and financial industry as a whole, has no straightforward consumer protection guidelines.He said this situation will not favour the survival of financial institutions in the long run."Good quality service is a product of right consumer protection and is, thus, the new paradigm that is defining – and, indeed, influencing – the entire economic sector and economic relations," he said.

The International Monetary Fund's review of regulatory systems in 2004 did (among other things) advise on “stipulation and clear identification of common regulatory themes for consumer rights promotion and protection,” Mwakyembe noted.

"Despite efforts in addressing the competitiveness of the financial sector, consumer abuse and rights violation are on the rise, and are directly affecting the economic welfare of many consumers," he stressed.

Noting that ''the main part of poor services in Tanzania's financial market is contributed to mainly by lack of consumers' awareness on their rights when making choices'', Mwakyembe stressed that "inadequate consumer awareness on their rights and obligations is the main stumbling block for realization of good services..."Yet, if there is one area that the financial sector could use to address its economic malaise and ensure its sustainable future, it is through the provision of financial education to consumers.

This would be in line with the implementation of the United Nations Consumer Protection Guidelines of 1999 which encourage Governments and institutions to work out clear, fair, guidelines that protect the interest of consumers.A research conducted in 2007 by the Finscope Group showed that, in order to strengthen financial institutions in any country (including Tanzania), there is a need to promote financial capability to consumers.

This includes empowering people to be capable of managing their financial assets and liabilities, to understand their rights and responsibilities vis-a-vis financial institutions.Mwakyembe: "in my view, financial education to consumers should focus on building financial discipline, managing their incomes, boosting their saving behaviour and the promotion of risk mitigation," he concluded.

In another development, auditor-general of Sweden, Eva Lindstrom, commended the National Audit Office of Tanzania for taking the initiative to organise the forum which, she said, was relevant and timely. In these times of financial crisis, Lindstrom said, “Supreme Audit Institutions in many countries are challenged to properly address the audit of financial supervisory agencies that are aiming at consumer protection and mitigating the risks that large sums of taxpayers' money will have to be used for the rescue of the financial system.”

Noting that the events of the past year have highlighted the significance of financial supervision, she said that financial markets and their institutions must operate in a highly competitive environment – and there will always be efforts made to circumvent the regulations. A strong, independently-organized financial supervisory authority is, therefore, of the highest importance for the stability of the economy and taxpayers.”

The global financial crisis also pointed to the importance of supervision of not only separate financial institutions, but also of the entire financial system. Moreover, the Swede said, new regulations on financial markets will need to be introduced in the years to come, globally. Supervision of cross-border banks will have to be improved – which will most certainly mean more cooperation between financial supervisory agencies in different countries.

Lindstrom observed that central banks failed to foresee the effects of the deterioration of markets that led to liquidity problems. To that effect, monetary policies need to take into account financial stability... And it is within the mandate of central bank to monitor and handle monetary conditions.“The Supreme Audit Institutions have an important role to play in monitoring the operations of the financial supervisory agencies.

Those agencies make up a vital part of the financial infrastructure, and when that infrastructure fails, the costs of that failure are most often transferred to the taxpayers,” she elaborated. Thus we, as auditors, must make sure that we have the knowledge and competence required to audit these agencies. According to her, auditing will create confidence in the system, an asset which is vital in promoting effective financial markets and stable economic growth.


Beer market: players urged to uphold spirit of competition

Thursday, 01 October 2009 16:23 Written by Administrator

The beer market war going on in the country is most likely not to have any negative impact on revenue collection, Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) has said.

The beer market war that have been prompted by the East African Breweries Limited's (EABL) interest to buy major stake in Serengeti Breweries (SBL) and in doing so to quit its partnership with Tanzania Breweries (TBL) will not affect the inflows of the government revenue.

According to Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) commissioner-general, Harry Kitillya, “as long as the volume of beer consumption in Tanzania does not decrease, the country's economy will not be adversely affected in terms of revenues.”

Kitillya stressed that the Revenue Authority is looking for growth in beer consumption regardless of who teams up with who in the industry. Growth in consumption will consequently increase production and sales thereby enabling TRA to collect more revenue.

Daimon Mwakyembe, a former director-general of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), is of the opinion that application of the rules of competition in respect of anti-competitive cross-border business conduct should be looked into.

Mwakyembe, who is also the chairman of the Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS), said while consumer groups need to support and encourage action to raise public awareness of competition issues, the proactive contribution which consumers can make through their shopping choices and their rights if they are the victims of restrictive practices.

Furthermore, he said that there are two things one needs to take note in analyzing the merger between SBL and EABL; one is the fallout between EABL and TBL with their contractual obligation; the second thing is the market impact on the merger between EABL and SBL.

“When it comes to the pros and cons of the merger between SBL and EABL,” Mwakyembe stressed, “Tanzanians have all the rights to share their feelings on the issue as at the end of the day consumers are the ones going to benefit or suffer based on decisions going to be made.”

Speaking in a different vein, the TCAS chief, Bernard Kihiyo, told this paper that, in a free market economy, competition with other players in the market is not an option; what matters is fairness of the competition – no matter how big or small the player is.

Kihiyo – who is also the CEO for Parasol Real Estate Agent & Developer Ltd – that countries which are in the East African Community (EAC) should establish a sub-regional competition tribunal that would enforce harmonized competition legislation.

Kihiyo nonetheless says “consumers are aware of TBL’s strong dominance in the beer market in Tanzania, which is believed to be more than 60 per cent. Any merger now would further reduce competition in the industry – and increase beer prices.”

In any case, observers are of the general view that beer prices in Tanzania “are no longer determined by market forces – but at the whim of company accountants. prices have increased threefold since the wars started,” Kihiyo elaborated.