Friday, August 27, 2010

Importation of counterfeit products in Tanzania: What should be done?

By Japhet Makongo –
He Shared his feeling through the Foundation for Civil Society mail page on 26th.Aug.2010

This is a very good and timely topic. Timely in the sense that we shall soon get a new government in place by the end of the year. It is my expectations that views given on this topic can be usefull for whoever comes into the decision making ring box.

I have three observations on what need to be done.

First, we know that this is global challenge and it goes beyond one country strategy. One of the reason why we all fall victims of counterfeit products is the price competitiveness. Unless we provide alternative quality products at affordable prices we shall not entangle ourselves from the web. My suggetion is for the government to become serious in implementing the East Africa Protocal on Trade and make joint efforts to produce and market similar products with quality but at cheaper prices. All what the governments need to do is to import the techonology from wherever these products are coming.... and I am sure we can provider even cheaper labour force. with the technology in our hands, we can use the qualtiy assurance and regulatory systems to improve what our consumers need. It may seem a far fetched idea, but serious governments can do it!

Second, we need some immediate actions to the matter. I do not understand why those who are involved in the game even when caught are left to enjoy their harvest with a token punishment? What does it cost the government to wipe out 100 entrusted and selfish business giants for the benefit of the populace? In China, the very country where these products are believed to come gave a death sentenced to whoever was found to sell poisoned milk for children! We may not want to kill, but we can merely ask these people to stop what they are doing by extracting their business licenses and asking them to help build the nation at segerea and elsewhere. I guess this comes down to having a committed and accountable government. I need to be advised...what is wrong with our rules and regulations? Are our institutions that have been mandated to implement these regulations toothless barking dogs or are they part of the game? HADITHI YA KARUME KENGE inanijia kila mara.

Third, it all comes to what people know about the effects of the counterfeit products. Unfortunately we have created the "I Do not Care Society" so selfish and self-centered individuals. We all want to show off to other that we are different even if it means sacrificing other people’s health. I appeal to the leading Civil Society Organisations and professional associations-engineers, doctors, accountants, environmental activities etc to give priority on educating the people about these products. In my opinion, professionals have not done enough to inform the public about the effects of having tons of counterfeit products on our soil. Take the example of low quality of the dry battery cells. You need to buys several pieces to finish shaving your beard and some do not even kick start the shaving machine.

We do not have proper disposal facilities and knowledge and as result they are thrown every where. We all know what it means when they are buried in the soil or come into contact with fire....they effects are is detrimental and yet these batteries are in all retail shops ...kule ambako watu wenye kipato cha chini wanaumia.... ni hatari

We should be aware that, there is not good governance, quality education, sound environment and climate change workshops if people are eating poison and dying! My wit is that lets all go Civic Education and Awareness on morals, ethics and making the people to take responsibility start seeing "us as well as seeing me"

One last comment........ I was optimistic with Jakaya Mrisho's call some months ago to help the political parties to distinguish "politics and business", but as long as these tycoons are still in the political arena we have slim chances of getting through-they are the ones behind counterfeit products including kuchakachua mafuta!
God protect Tanzania


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Days of sub-standard imports numbered - TBS

25th August 2010

The government is determined to curb current massive importation of sub-standard products into the country by ensuring that all imports are verified at the point of origin to determine whether they meet the requisite quality standards, Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) Director General Charles Ekelege said yesterday.

He told a press conference at the TBS premises in Dar rs Salaam that, the exercise would be undertaken through a ‘Pre- shipment Verification of Conformity to Standards programme’ to be managed by the bureau together with other local and international partners.

The TBS chief executive said the process of securing the local and international partners were currently underway to enable timely take-off of the exercise.

“We are going to announce the international tender basing on the Public Procurement Act next month to get partners who will implement the programme,’ Ekelege told participants to the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) Regional Workshop on Conformity Assessment from 20 eastern and southern Africa countries.

He added that once implemented there would be no sub-standard goods which would be imported into the country because companies that would be contracted to execute the programme would be liable for any imported poor quality products.

According to Ekelege, the international accepted programme was already being implemented by other African countries including Kenya, Uganda and Botswana.

He said the programme would involve all the commodities countrywide and the tender was open to both local and international companies.

Ekelege said the workshop was a starting point as a forum for discussing harmonisation of the conformity assessment procedures in the region with the aim of facilitating the smooth flow and exchange of goods and services in the region.

For his part, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Marketing, Shaaban Mwinjaka said implementation of international standards and conformity assessment practices provided excellent means of technology transfer to developing countries while assisting in overcoming technology gaps.

“International standards are important in improving our developing countries’ access to international markets and to strengthening ability to implement international trade obligations,” he said.

“Consumers shall have more confidence in products bearing a mark of certificate of conformity that attest to quality, safety or other desirable characteristics,” Mwinjaka said, adding that manufacturers needed to make sure that their products met the requirements specified in the relevant standards.

He said assessing products to see whether they met relevant standards further helped manufacturers to avoid costs of product failures in the market.

According to the Deputy PS, Tanzania had already moved a positive step by actively participating in the process of harmonising regional procedures on conformity assessment in both the East African Community and the Southern Africa Development Community.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Automatic Overdraft Protection: Just Say No

By Jane Bryant Quinn Aug 16, 2010

Just say no, when your bank or credit union asks if you want “courtesy” overdraft protection for purchases made with your debit card. This so-called service damages your finances and handed the banks $37.1 billion in fees last year, Moebs Services reports. Most of that money was drained from the accounts of people living paycheck to paycheck.

New regulations, effective August 15, stopped the lenders from hitting you with debit-card overdraft fees automatically. Now you have to specifically agree to the charges, either when you open an account or by signing up for the program later. But who would agree to these abusive fees if he or she knew all the facts? There are cheaper ways than this one of getting the protection you want.

The automatic overdraft started about a decade ago. Until then, banks turned down debit-card purchases if you didn’t have enough money in your checking account to cover the bill. The same was true if you tried to overdraw your account at an ATM. “Sorry,” the screen said, “you don’t have the scratch.” That’s the way prudent money management is supposed to work.

Then the banks had a Eureka moment. Instead of turning you down, they let you overspend and charged you a “courtesy fee” for letting the transaction go through. Moebs puts the median fee at $27 for every overdraft, even if the bill runs just $1 or $5 over the amount you have in your account. Some banks charge the fee if you’re a penny over. Effectively, you’re getting very short-term credit at effective interest rates that reach the high triple digits.

At the big banks that allow overdrafts, the median fee is $35. They charge another $7 to $36 if you don’t repay the overdraft within a few days, according to a 2010 survey by the Consumer Federation of America. (Citibank never allowed debit-card overdrafts unless you arranged for some sort of backup line. Bank of America recently ended them.)

There are much better ways of getting overdraft protection from banks, which are detailed below. But don’t expect banks to volunteer that information. They’re engaged in aggressive marketing campaigns to sell you on the “courtesy” program that will cost you the most.

In their marketing calls, emails and brochures, they grab you with anecdotes. For example, they warn that — without the program — you might have a debit card refused at the grocery checkout because you’re overdrawn by the cost of a $1.50 tin of tuna. Ooooo, that sounds bad, so you sign up.

Personally, I’d rather put the tuna fish back than pay a $35 overdraft charge.

The tuna fish is the least of it. If you left the grocer and used your debit card for coffee and donuts on the way home, that’s another $35 in overdraft fees. A stop at the drugstore for vitamins and aspirin would cost you another $35. You’ve just racked up $105 in penalties, for minor expenditures that you wouldn’t have made if you’d known about the fees. And you won’t know they were overdrafts until you log into your online account or get a letter or email from the bank.

The banks mislead you by saying things like, “Act now, or your debit card transactions will be denied,” according to Linda Sherry, spokesperson for Consumer Action. “You think you’ll be in trouble if you don’t sign up. They don’t explain that the reason for the denial is that you don’t have the money in your account.”

They also say, “Sign up, if you like the way your account is working now.” Most customers rarely experience overdrafts, so they might accept the program without realizing the size of the fees they’re potentially exposed to.

If you want overdraft protection, and many of us do, there are three cheaper ways of getting it. First, put money into a savings account and link it to your checking account. If you overdraw, the bank will take the needed money out of your savings, charging perhaps $5 for the transfer. Alternatively, sign up for a personal line of credit to be used for overdrafts, or link your checking account to a line of credit on your credit card. These are all better choices than the “courtesy” overdrafts that drill into your wallet.

What if you have no savings and don’t qualify for a line of credit? You’re better off having excessive transactions turned down, says Rebecca Borne, senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending. Serial overdraft fees just make it harder to pay future bills.

The new regulations cover only debit-card purchases and ATM withdrawals. Banks and credit unions still levy expensive overdraft fees if they honor a check that you wrote for more money than you have in your account. The same is true if you’ve signed up for automatic bill payments and can’t cover the debit when it’s due. To opt out of these fees — and still have protection — you have to call the bank and say that you want one of the three cheaper options instead.

You might think that you can avoid overdrafts by keeping your check register up to date or monitoring your account online. But it’s not that easy. There’s another piece to this story of abuse — and another reason to say no to automatic debit-card overdrafts.

About half of the banks (and most of the big ones) “engineer” the way they cover debits, to make it more likely that you’ll have to pay multiple fees. As a result, you can rack up 10 or more $35 fees in a single day, from a string of small purchases that you thought you had enough money to cover.

A recent court decision, in a class action lawsuit, called this bank practice “gouging and profiteering.” That’s a story for next time.

More on MoneyWatch:

Five Ways the Financial Reform Law Changes Your Money Habits

Financial Reform: A Big Win for Consumers, a Big Loss for Investors

The Dangers of Using a Debit Card

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

U.N. Affirms Human Right to Water

For Immediate Release:
July 29, 2010

Contact: Christina Rossi, 617-447-2540

NEW YORK, NY– In a historic vote, the United Nations General Assembly affirmed the human right to water and sanitation, citing concerns that nearly 900 million people worldwide lack access to clean water.

The 192-member Assembly also called on United Nations Member States and international organizations to offer funding, technology and other resources to help developing countries scale up their efforts to provide clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for everyone.

The Assembly resolution, championed by Bolivia with over 40 cosponsors, received 122 votes in favor and zero votes against, while 41 countries abstained from voting. The United States abstained, but issued a statement in support of the overall effort to realize the human right to water.

“The General Assembly vote is a clear victory for the water justice movement and will help ensure that international regulatory bodies and national governments fully recognize the human right to water and begin to work towards fulfilling their obligations with respect to providing clean water and sanitation to those lacking,” said Kelle Louaillier, executive director of Corporate Accountability International.

The text of the resolution expresses deep concern that an estimated 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and a total of more than 2.6 billion people do not have access to basic sanitation. Studies also indicate about 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year because of water- and sanitation-related diseases.

The resolution states that “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of the right to life.”
The resolution also welcomes the U.N. Human Rights Council’s request that Catarina de Albuquerque, the U.N. Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation, report annually to the General Assembly as well.
“The right to drinking water and sanitation are independent rights that should be recognized as such,” said Plurinational State of Bolivia Ambassador Pablo Solon. “It is not sufficient to urge States to comply with their human rights obligations relative to access to drinking water and sanitation. Instead, it is necessary to call on states to promote and protect the human right to drinking water and sanitation.”

List of sponsoring countries :
Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, The Plurinational State of Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Fiji, Georgia, Guinea, Haiti, Madagascar, Maldives, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Paraguay, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Seychelles, The Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tuvalu, Uruguay, Vanuatu, The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Yemen.