Samia’s pick of vice president generates optimistic discussion

TANZANIA’S President Samia Suluhu has picked Dr Philip Mpango, the incumbent finance minister, as her vice president, against public expectations.

Dr Mpango (63) is a development economics technocrat who has served as Minister for Finance and Planning under the outgoing regime of the late John Magufuli.

The Parliament has overwhelmingly endorses him with 363 votes, being 100 percent of members of parliament present in the House when the voting took place.

A seasoned economist, Dr Mpango presided over the preparation of national development plans for the past 15 years. As the commissioner of the National Planning Commission, he oversaw the preparation of the Tanzania Vision 2025, which was launched by the government in 1999.

Addressing the parliament after his endorsement today, Dr Mpango introduced himself as an expert in development economics. He vowed to use his expertise to advise the president faithfully on how best to use national resources in the process to alleviate the poverty of the nation with a preferential focus on “fourteen million Tanzanians who are living under poverty line.”

He said: “I wish to assure you that I shall not tolerate corrupt servants.”

He expressed his determination to assist the government to realise the national dream of a “poverty-free nation.”

Dr Mpango is a lucky survivor of COVID-19. A few weeks ago, when it was rumoured that he had died, he was forced to appear before the press to prove his case, in his efforts to show that he was recovering well from “respiratory challenges,” although he ended up coughing his way through the press conference.

Very few people expected him to be Samia’s pick for vice president but a cross section of experts interviewed by SAUTI KUBWA expressed a sense of optimism.

Dr Lenny Kasoga, a retired university don, said Dr Mpango would be instrumental in the president’s bid to speed up the country’s economic development.

According to Dr Kasoga, the incoming vice president knows all the clean and tainted economic paths under the outgoing regime.

Prof. Chris Peter Maina of the University of Dar es Salaam hinted on Dr Mpango’s integrity even as he was part of the outgoing regime.

He said:” He is not a politician but a technocrat who follows instructions as given to the letter. In that way, he might be useful to a radical leader. He is on record for being unhappy that Prof. Mussa Assad had brought to public attention, the alarming national debt without pre-warning the former President.”

Prof. Assad was the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) whose tenure was terminated unceremoniously and unconstitutionally by the former President John Magufuli following the exposure of corruption that aroused public concern and debates against the president’s expectations.

Agricultural economist Dr Andrew Temu said the appointment was apolitical: “I think the only thing she (the president) has managed to to avoid is the camps within CCM. This (Mpango) is a technocrat more than a politician. I would wish he remains the excellent economist he is. If vested with the responsibility of managing the economy, he will do well; he has a wide network of Think Tanks and individuals to deploy. (He is) gentle, desciplined and hard working. He did fairly well at the planning commission.”

Economics Professor Honest Ngowi was equally positive. He said: “It is a signal that the President wants to focus on the economy, which is the docket Dr. Mpango had, and is his area of expertise. Other factors remaining constant, he can help her (the president) and the country to perform well economically.

“However, they need a very strong, professional, objective, non-political Presidential Economic Counsel to critically and objectively advise them on the economic path to follow.  Though not part of your question, I have always advised expansionary monetary and fiscal policies for the economy.”

But a seasoned Tanzanian political analyst and gender specialist who preferred anonymity had this to say:

“I caught him (Mpango) midway during his last speech. I was irritated and put off by his reference to Tanzanians as “wanyonge,” meaning, the downtrodden – repeating the same mantra as his dead crony. It is a tactic used to appeal to the sentiments of the Tanzanians who mostly lack emotional intelligence.

“Speaking of ‘wanyonge‘ after 40 years of independence, it is the CCM government which has failed to deliver.

“His ‘unyonge‘ is money metric oriented, devoid of any sense of how the CCM government has consistently promoted other kinds of ‘unyonge‘ engendered by policies that deprived us of several rights and freedoms such as civil and political rights, passing obnoxious laws that have limited our opportunity to make decisions about issues that affect our lives; muzzling our freedom of expression; silencing the NGOs; depriving us of our rights to be informed, including life saving information on Covid-19.”