QUESTION: How is your government planning to benefit from the skills, expertise and wealth of Zanzibaris in the Diaspora?
ANSWER: We are on good terms with the Zanzibaris living in Diaspora. This is to the extent of starting a special unit in the President’s Office.
We aim to benefit from the wealth they have accumulated, and also in attracting investments to the country.
Furthermore, we would like to use the skills and expertise they have acquired abroad in the government.
Signs are that some of them have been influenced to work with the government in attracting investments to Zanzibar. However, there is some hesitation others to do so.
What is the cause of the hesitation?
They are not used to the new era. Also, they are concerned with their citizenship status after returning home.
However, I’m thankful that the Union government has started working on the matter – and, upon completion of the process, Tanzanians in the Diaspora will have several benefits.
The benefits include being allowed to get land, using other procedures when coming home instead of visa and many others – with the exception in participation in political activities, including electoral voting.
Progress of the process is encouraging, and, after its completion, any and all doubts would have been resolved.
There have been commendable efforts to eliminate contentious Union matters. After a year in office as Zanzibar President: which remaining issue(s) need(s) to be worked on?
Fortunately, both sides have worked on, and de-listed, many contentious issues, including the recent “Seven.” However, we need to work on the Joint Finance Account (JFA) which has a mandate to preserve all collected revenues.
It is from the JFA that monies to fund governments’ recurrent expenditure come from, and the remaining amount is shared by the Union partners.
Unfortunately, this is not happening due to some difficulties. However, there is nothing that cannot be fruitfully discussed.
The Joint Finance Commission (JFC) should turn to the JFA after working on, and de-listing, other contentious matters.
This is the time for the Commission to work on the account to ensure it starts operating. It may not be easy but there is nothing that cannot be discussed and resolved.
Where is the difficulty?
In Zanzibar, public revenue collection is by the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) for Union tax issues, and the Zanzibar Revenue Board (ZRB) for the non-Union taxes.
But, collected Union and non-Union revenues are retained in Zanzibar instead of being deposited in the joint account.
However, Union institutions operating in Zanzibar – such as the Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) – use funds from the Union basket instead of the joint account as required.
As I said earlier: discussions can start and end in solutions.
After a year in office: can you disclose something that you didn’t expect as President – and which surprised you?
Despite understanding the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic before assuming office, I didn’t know the magnitude of its impact on the economy.
I came to know that after becoming President of Zanzibar. (Covid-19) came at a time when you are struggling to look for people’s salaries.
That was when I came to know that Covid-19 was a huge challenge requiring immediate measures.
On November 5, 2021, you disclosed the government’s plan to inject Sh460 billion into the economy. How will the money be utilised?
For the first time ever, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave Zanzibar a Sh230 billion loan. A similar amount was secured from domestic financial institutions, making a total of Sh460 billion.
The money was put in the economy to increase circulation through implementation of infrastructure projects in the education, health, water and electricity sectors.
These projects will create jobs for masons, plumbers, electricians, and sellers of cement, sand and gravel, transporters, etc.
The money will also be loaned to entrepreneurs to boost sustainable development of their projects. Fishermen, food vendors, carpenters, welders and persons in small businesses will benefit by improving their income-generating activities.
How is the government planning to supervise the money amidst challenges of embezzlement, etc?
I have made it clear to my aides that every shilling put in a project must be accounted for; that close supervision is made throughout implementation.
Executives have been cautioned that, regardless of the size of loss, stern measures will be taken against embezzlers, and I hope this will increase the level of discipline in public expenditures.
During the election campaigns, you pledged to create 300,000 jobs. What is the progress regarding that pledge?
The 300,000 jobs will be created in the five years of my leadership, not within the first year. However, economic difficulties have obstructed the intention in the first year.
Jobs will be created in the public, private and informal sectors through loans to entrepreneurs who will become empowered citizens in the self-employment stakes.
Processing factories will be built for locally-produced inputs such as seaweed, fish, cloves, spices, etc., thus creating jobs.
Hopefully, the target will be met in the pledged five years.
What is the government doing to attract investments from the private sector in order to create more jobs?
We provide education and capital – and also create reliable markets for small-scale entrepreneurs.
This is in line with the provision of 500 modern boats capable of fishing a tonne of ocean products a day; equivalent to 500 tonnes for the whole fleet.
Increased fishing will be supported by the finding of reliable markets for fish catches.
Large-scale entrepreneurs will be supported through the provision of appropriate tax incentives, a good business environment, while the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Agency (Zipa) will be empowered to process investment permits within a short time.
You were quoted as saying that humiliation and narcotics are things that were troubling you. What is the progress?
A special court against humiliation has been formed after amendment of the law, and, nowadays, humiliation offences are unbailable in the Isles.
We have formed the Anti-Narcotics Agency to replace the Drugs Coordination Commission that lacked a legal mandate.
The Anti-Narcotics Agency has the mandate to arrest, investigate and prosecute suspects.
The government will also continue with the installation of security equipment at its airports and seaports in efforts to prevent entry of prohibited narcotic drugs.
Hopefully, these measures – together with a vigorous provision of education – should serve to intensify the crackdown against the drugs-related vices.
You announced selling government ships and disbanding the Shipping Corporation of Zanzibar. What are the short and long term plans to provide affordable transport to Zanzibaris?
We thank God for the commendable job done by the private sector in marine transportation.
There are transport vessels which ply the Dar es Salaam-Zanzibar and Zanzibar-Pemba routes daily.
The government is planning to buy modern vessels that would lower operational costs – and also generate profit.
Unlike the previous ships, the new ones should be able to provide low-cost services to travellers and transporters.