Tanzania Faces Slow Growth and Legacy Of Socialist Control

LIFE for most Tanzanians has become extremely harsh. Six out of 10 Tanzanian children are malnourished - often because of a lack of money to buy available food, according to the United Nations. Even for those fortunate enough to find a job, the minimum wage is only $12 a month.

Despite some progress in the past few years by farmers, Tanzania's economic policies and socialist ideology are under mounting criticism.

Defending his country's socialist policies, Tanzanian President Ali Hassan Mwinyi told visiting journalists: ``We are not going to abandon [socialism].''

The government controls key elements of the country's economy, such as the marketing of agricultural products and the operation of parastatals (state-owned services and industries), including banks and railroads.

It is these socialist economic policies that are holding back progress, according to Tanzanian and international critics.

Despite Tanzania's policy of ``self-reliance,'' these critics insist that the country is highly dependent on outside aid. ``Without foreign aid, this country would collapse,'' says a Tanzanian businessman. A United States official says that Tanzanians, normally passive in political matters, might ``take to the street'' over deteriorating conditions if aid stopped.

Some of the strongest criticism from Tanzanian officials and businessmen, diplomats, and international donors hits at the core of Tanzanian socialism - its goal of helping the poor.

These critics say that greed and corruption have replaced the ideals of socialism and that officials misuse government funds.

``The government has forgotten the poor,'' says a senior Tanzanian official, speaking privately.

``I think there's very little in the way of dedicated socialists in Tanzania,'' says a Western diplomat. Many government officials ``have used their time in office to build up fortunes. They depend on a flow of kickbacks and bribes,'' he adds.

Critics say the huge bureaucracy acts as a patronage system for top party officials and drains money from social services, such as schools and health.

Tanzania needs to make massive layoffs in its 459 parastatals, which are ``essentially bankrupt,'' says Roy Southworth, a World Bank official here.

Tanzanian officials blame cuts in social services in the past several years on World Bank requirements that the government reduce spending to qualify for new loans. A US official says this is just an excuse. ``In Tanzania, they're spending a lot to keep the [government] party going and on parastatals and marketing boards that are corrupt,'' he says.

Minister of Finance Stephen Kibona says that Tanzania is trying to change its strategy ``a little bit. ... It's not ideology [that is to blame], it's bad management.''

Tanzania has considerable economic potential, says an international donor official. It has three harbors, and mineral, gas, and oil prospects. Texaco recently came to Tanzania to begin oil exploration. But Tanzania's new investment code does not prohibit the government from nationalizing assets of private companies (although with some compensation) - something critics say will discourage investors.

Current wages are only 14 percent of 1977 levels, say international officials here. And the limited economic recovery is still ``very fragile,'' according to Mr. Southworth of the World Bank.

Tanzania is in its fourth year of World Bank-mandated economic reforms. Policy shifts center on agriculture, and results are ``small, but encouraging,'' says a UN official here. Agricultural production has been increasing for the past several years. All of the land is state-owned, but production comes primarily from individually worked plots.

President Mwinyi describes some of the benefits of socialism as ``freedom of press, freedom of association and travel.'' Tanzanian journalists, however, say the government limits their freedom.

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