Traditionally the New Year vows include making resolutions which normally disappear within the same month of January and then things continue to be as usual. I hope this time around things will change, given the challenges that were intensely recited in that slogan, 'We dared, we succeeded, and we are forging ahead'; something should be seen forging ahead.
It should be everybody's responsibility to remind each other whenever we are slacking in forging ahead. I have no doubt that press would be in the frontline in doing so. Sometimes I am forced to believe that the press is just crying in the wilderness, nobody seems to be concerned unless the reported items are associated with ufisadi.
But other serious issues that are crucial to our development end up in the bookshelves gathering dust. Our Vision 2025 was initiated in 1999 but had to wait for several years until recently when the formation of the National Planning Commission was created.
How many years have been wasted before this very important document is being implemented? I remember in 2005 a Tanzanian delegation of high powered government officials visited Namibia and during the briefing with Tanzania Community living in Windhoek, the question of Vision 2025 was raised but it sounded new to most of them and nobody had a convincing explanation!
It is good that President Kikwete has revitalized the Vision by creating a strong National Planning Commission under the leadership of Dr Philip Mpango. According to Dr Mpango, the Plan provides insights into responses of Tanzania to the increasing challenges of development and outlines what it will take to succeed, and expected outcomes in delivering sustainable development.
More importantly, the Plan is premised on the principles of accountability, equality, credibility, integrity, and effective resource utilization. With equality and accountability, this will improve our Gin Coefficient index, the measure of inequality of wealth. When launching this Plan, Kikwete warned his executives that he wants things to get moving, not a question of quoting the Vision 2025 to colour their speeches but should be accompanied with tangible results related to the Plan.
Yes, I expect we will put aside the dominant question hidden in the hearts of our politicians as to the race of presidency in 2015. Let us concentrate on the implementation of our Vision on this First Five Year Development Plan which has singled out key priority areas and identified strategic interventions that will accelerate economic growth, create employment, and support industrialization efforts.
What more do we need if through this Vision in the long run we are assured of improved infrastructure, agriculture, industry, water and human resource development? Are we not going to live like our counterparts in Europe? Right now we are almost ending the first year of the First National Development Plan which in essence is the alignment on manageable number of operational priorities as part of the medium term framework to be followed by two more medium term plans, the second (2015/16 - 2020/21 and the third on 2020/21 - 2025/26.)
Of course the year 2011/12 is a transitional period and only a few projects have been identified that have the qualifications of growth unleashing potentials. However, we need to be informed in order to participate in the monitoring process. Do we so far have the feedback that we are in the right track? Has the government already worked out the coordinated government-wide system of tracking, evaluation and feedback on implementation of the Plan?
This year has been used to buff up implementation arrangements including institutional and legal reforms necessary to bind all agencies to be approved Plans Budget. Yes, that is the right approach. Hopefully issues related to criminal justice system have been taken onboard and that those involved in planning must have gone to think beyond the box and come up with relevant non-archaic plans.
I have always been following Kikwete's speeches more than three times speaking on the same issue of overcrowding of our prisons, yet I do not see any solution. We still think we can solve this problem through building new prisons. No! I know the solution is in the proposed new Prison Policy which is gathering dust somewhere yet to be adopted by the government. I doubt if this Policy has been accommodated in those medium term plans frameworks of Vision 2025!
Overcrowding is the mother of all problems within the criminal justice system and impedes the process of effective rehabilitation of offenders. Rehabilitation is not only limited to agricultural and industrial activities as people tend to think; it stretches to effective intervention treatments to offenders intended to fight recidivism. That is where the new philosophy of Correctional Strategy is trying to achieve.
Teaming up with community policing, effective paroling and speedy justice dispensation would go a long way not only in easing prison congestions but also reduce crime rate. If decision makers are ignorant of this new Prison Policy - a paradigm shift, the solution will not be found and the country will continue to be accused of violating human rights by having overpopulated prisons.
The Tanzania's Fourth Periodical Report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva in 2009 reported that Tanzania Prisons Service is working on a new Prisons Policy that will focus on a new Correctional Strategy based on Risk Management and Social Reintegration of Offenders.
This is a departure from the archaic Prison Act, 1967 which is not in line with these dynamic changes that address decongestion of prisons and promote public safety through social reintegration. We definitely need to think out of the box otherwise our Prison System will remain fifty years behind! Let us get down to business.