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Archive for January 8th, 2010

The Hidden Costs of Democracy: Footing the bill for retired leaders

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Ever since the late Julius Nyerere stepped down from office in 1985, Tanzania has maintained a positive leadership tradition on a continent where succession is often problematic. Presidents serve for their full two terms- a decade- and then retire to live out the rest of their days as respected elder statesmen. Ministers and Prime Ministers and Vice Presidents serve at the pleasure of their Presidents and then either continue with their political careers as Members of Parliament, or they retire. Now, with all this retiring going on, Tanzania’s peaceful succession model has actually left her with a hefty maintenance bill for former public servants, so claims this story in today’s Tanzania Daima‘Vigogo wastaafu mzigo kwa taifa’ [Retired leaders a burden on the nation], (The link is unavailable. Their site appears to be down). 

There are a number of African countries that have put old presidents out to pasture with varying degrees of grace: Ghana, South Africa, Botswana and more recently Kenya come to mind. The well-intended Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership – set at 5 million USD- is meant in part as a financial incentive for African leaders not to accumulate retirement funds through abuse of power. How that negligible amount of money is supposed to distract incumbents from the temptations provided by having access to their national treasuries is not entirely clear. It may be instructive that in 2009 the prize went unclaimed as the Mo Ibrahim Foundation failed to find a worthy candidate – a President who had served within her or his term limits and retired within the past three years. 

One interesting angle that has been raised in the Tanzania Daima story is the issue of public servants who resigned due to corruption-related pressures. Edward Lowassa was mentioned as one of the leaders who are receiving a hefty government pension. Does this imply that Andrew Chenge, Grey Mgonja, Johnson Mwanyika, Basil Mramba and other recent ‘retirees’ are enjoying their rightful benefits as former public servants? And what message is the government sending its largest cohort of employees- school teachers- who have not received their relatively affordable salaries for a long time? In any case, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation should take note that President Jakaya Kikwete will be ripe for the Leadership Prize in the first quarter of 2016. 

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Written by serengetiadvisersblog

January 8, 2010 at 16:48