East Africa

John Pombe Mugufuli - A tribute and a peek at the claim of Tanzania's Middle Income Country (MIC) Status

John Pombe Mugufuli - A tribute and a peek at the claim of Tanzanias Middle Income Country (MIC) Status

18 March 2021


_____ It is very sad indeed for Tanzania and Africa to lose an energetic, and I believe very well-meaning, son like John Pombe Magufuli. Indeed we should celebrate all the positives about Ndugu John Pombe Magufuli. He was also quite the enigmatic person and leader. Magufuli always reminded me of William Shakespeare's CORIOLANUS. Coriolanus was a tragic figure who wanted the best for his people and country. However, Coriolanus did not know how to make his people step up to his own pace; and neither did he know or was he willing to pitch his own steps to a pace at which he could walk with his people and be able to effectively help them.


_____ A main point over which I have been reading and hearing a lot of applause for John Pombe Mafuguli is that on his watch (during his presidency), Tanzania achieved Middle Income Country (MIC) Status. I congratulate brothers and sisters in Tanzania for the undeniable progress that they have made in this direction. As to whether Tanzania has truly attained MIC Status I will wait until I can see a more comprehensive picture with a pair of untinted glasses.


_____ I have been involved with quite a few Asian countries' planning, policy formulation, etc as they have evolved from very poor ("Least Developed Countries" in UN and World Bank parlance) to "Middle Income Countries". My first experience was in 1978 - 1979 while I collecting data for my doctoral thesis in two of the most developed countries in Asia today. In 1978-1979, the level of development in these two countries was certainly below that of the Uganda that I had left behind in 1975. Then since the 1980s, I have lived and worked with national colleagues in more that 15 other countries in Asia as they have made their respective drives towards attaining MIC Status. A lot of these countries are among the now so-called Asian Tigers. Most have attained MIC Status. Only a few of the countries have not quite attained MIC yet. Even those countries that are not quite there yet have made very commendable progress.


_____ There are many factors that have to be considered in getting to MIC status, not just Gross National Income per capita. The process also involves a lot of honesty and trust. In one country, the Government was so eager to get to MIC Status by a set date that the Chief Government Statistician was fired from the job, and another person who could cook the statistics for the politicians was put in place. I also ended up stopping work in that country as I could not stand the dishonesty. But on the whole, all the countries I have been involved with have been diligently meticulous in ensuring that MIC truly means "development" = equitably shared, sustainable, permanent and irreversible improvement in the well being of the country.


_____ I heard some months back that Museveni of Uganda was also claiming that Uganda had attained MIC!! While I give Uganda F = failing grade at this time, I would like to submit I = Incomplete for Tanzania. _____ Yes, I am also a teacher.


21 March 2021


______ After reading through the above tribute, my FFC (Friend From Childhood) colleague, Prof. David Bakibinga, made the observation that “World Bank classification for Tanzania is Lower Middle Income status.” Prof. Bakibinga’s observation has prompted me to add the following remarks to the tribute.


______ Yes, indeed since 2020, the World Bank has given Tanzania a passing grade to LMIC (Lower Middle Income Country) Status. -- https://www.worldbank.org/.../tanzania-economic-update...  This is very commendable and all well-meaning people ought to be rooting for Tanzania to go even higher to MIC and eventually to HIC (High Income Country) Status.

_____ Also, there are many cautionary tales about the World Bank's tendency to frame development into a single-story journey of increased income. Up to the late 1970s, Liberia was depicted as a prime example of income-driven development. By the 1980s, Liberia had fallen on its face because there were never any props in place to make the much touted "economic growth" sustainable. Argentina was also "more developed" than most European countries until the 1970s when commodities prices sent it into a shock it has never recovered from. ....... Of course, another cautionary tale about the World Bank or any development institution is that much as they say that they are judging different countries' levels of development, they are also primarily being the prosecutor, defender and judge of their own (The Bank's and Development Community's) agendas.

_____ A recent book by Seth Donnelly highlights the fallacious arguments of the primacy of income as the main indicator of development. -- "The Lie of Global Prosperity: How Neoliberals Distort Data to Mask Poverty and Exploitation". (Reviewed at https://monthlyreview.org/product/lie_of_global_prosperity/.)

_____ James K. Galbraith (son of the great John Kenneth Galbraith) gives an incisive summary of Seth Donnelly book: "A bleak look at the propagandistic world of development goals and the international comparisons of poverty, hunger, housing, and health on which they rest. Global statisticians have ways of making the data talk, but as with all forms of torture, the result is not the truth. It is, merely, what the sponsor would like to hear, and what he would like the rest of us to believe." — James K. Galbraith, author of Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know.

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