Introduction to NPMS
Home Contents Introduction Opening Remarks Objectives Introduction to NPMS CSOs/Govt Partnership Poverty Assesment Day One Recap Research Methodologies Monitoring Technique Cross-cutting isssues S E Database Role of CSOs in PRSP Lobbying & Advocacy Monitoring Strategy Lesson Learned Closing Remarks

 

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Paper Presentation

Introduction to the National Poverty Monitoring System

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Mr. Pascal Assey from the Poverty Eradication Division in the Vice-President’s Office (VPO) made a presentation titled “Towards a National Poverty Monitoring System”.  The presentation points to the fact that there is a growing demand and urgent need on the part of the Government and other stakeholders to generate poverty related data and effective systems for monitoring and evaluating current short-term poverty eradication programmes.  This demand began after the formulation of the Government’s National Poverty Eradication Strategy (NPES) in 1997, became more pronounced during the process of drafting the Tanzania Assistance Strategy (TAS), and has grown even more acute with the arrival of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in year 2000.

The demand for establishing a system of monitoring poverty has increased because of the urgent need to do the followings: -

Have reliable and timely data to determine whether poverty reduction targets are being met.

Use data as evidence to promote evidence based policy analysis and planning

Enable policy makers to assess progress against targets and make adjustments where necessary or to correct observed inadequacies.

The Government is in the process of establishing a comprehensive and integrated Poverty Monitoring System (PMS).  The terms “comprehensive” and “integrated” are used because poverty monitoring in the past has been done in an ad hoc and uncoordinated manner.  Different stakeholders have been monitoring poverty in an uncoordinated manner through different methodologies and samples of different targets groups.  As a result, the data generated from such surveys has not been comparable, at times even radically contradicting with each other.  This has made it impossible for the Government to use existing data and information for locating where the poor exist, as well as using it for planning and policy formulation.

Realising this shortcoming, the Government has now decided to establish a national institutional framework for monitoring poverty.  This framework is otherwise known as the Poverty Monitoring System.  The system is governed  by a Steering Committee, which is comprised by technical experts from the PRSP priority sector ministries and chaired by the Ministry of Finance.  The Division of Poverty Eradication in the Vice-President’s Office functions as the Secretariat to the Poverty Monitoring System.

The Steering Committee of the Poverty Monitoring System reports to a committee of Ministers on   the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) Initiative, which then frequently reports to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

The Poverty Monitoring System has four (04) working groups.  The names of the group and the names of the institutions which have been given the mandate to lead the groups in brackets are the (i) survey and census group (National Bureau of Statistics), (ii) Routine data collection group (President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government), (iii) Research and analysis group (Planning Commission/ REPOA-Research for Poverty Alleviation), and (iv) Dissemination and sensitisation group (Division of Poverty Eradication – Vice-President’s Office).

A decision has been made by the Government to involve other stakeholders (including civil society organisations) as much as possible in the process of carrying-out the functions that are intended to be achieved by the Poverty Monitoring System.

Although one can argue that the target of setting up the system by June 2001 seems complex and ambitious, one should be aware that the Government is not starting from a clean slate.   Current efforts by the Government to enhance its capacity to monitor poverty are built on a number of on-going processes.  These may be termed as the “building blocks” of the Poverty Monitoring System. These processes are already well underway and in-place.  What the Government is aiming at is to integrate these processes and focus them to inform Government and other stakeholders on progress being made to achieve poverty reduction goals and targets. These “building blocks” include:

(i)   The production of a poverty and welfare monitoring indicators booklet published by the Vice Presidents Office in 1998. The booklet has 78 poverty related indicators, which were developed through a wide consultative process.

(ii)         A shorter list of priority indicators outlined in the PRSP document.

(iii)        The Household Budget Survey, a critical source of data and information on poverty related indicators is well underway.

(iv)       The Tanzania Socio- Economic Database.

(v)         Public Expenditure Review/Medium Term Expenditure Framework (PER/MTEF) processes.  These are critical medium of expenditure tracking and resource allocation to poverty reduction priority areas.

(vi)       A monitoring and evaluation system being placed by the Local Government Reform Programme (LGRP) to monitor the quality of social service delivery.

(vii)      On-going sector - wide reforms such as health sector and local government sector reforms, and agriculture and rural development strategies etc.

The next step in setting-up the Poverty Monitoring System involves the drafting of a Poverty Monitoring Master plan.  The Government is also exploring linkages with the Civil Society Poverty/PRSP monitoring system, so as to be informed of poverty trends and measurements from the civil society perspective.

Also, relevant to civil society poverty/PRSP monitoring strategies, the Government is currently in a process of setting up the institutional framework within which poverty/PRSP monitoring will take place.  This framework includes, “rules of the game” within which poverty monitoring will take place.  This includes creating a condusive policy environment and incentives for civil society organisation to engage in monitoring poverty/PRSP.

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4.1 Plenary Discussions:

Civil society representatives reacted to the Government presentation as follows:-

It is not clear from the presentation whether space or a place has been provided for civil society participation, engagement   in the institutional framework for Poverty Monitoring.  It is not clear how civil society will provide feedback to the Government-led Poverty Monitoring System.

Reacting to the above contribution, another civil society representative argued that perhaps that is the wrong question.   The question should be what can civil society organisations do independently from the Government framework.  The representative was skeptical about relying on Government - produced data on poverty reduction/PRSP targets achievements.  Instead of relying on the Government, the civil society strategy should be to develop its own poverty monitoring master plan.

Government efforts to set-up a poverty monitoring system are coming too late, bearing in-mind that the PRSP has already started to be implemented even before setting-up a system to monitor it!!  The assumption that the Poverty Monitoring System will be in-place by June this year is also over-ambitious, bearing in-mind that capacities to generate statistical data in this country is in shambles.  By any rate, it will take at least 12 months before one can have reliable data coming out of the system that one can feel comfortable to defend.

The Chairperson of TCDD Rev. Dr. Mwombeki interjected and clarified that the purpose of conducting this workshop is precisely to develop civil society’s own system of monitoring poverty and the PRSP.  It is assumed that at the end of the workshop, all participants will reach a consensus on a workable system to monitor the PRSP.  With regard to establishment of forum to meet or link with the Government system, rest assured that for political and diplomatic reasons, the Government cannot afford to ignore the views and opinions of civil society organisations.  We will continue to exploit existing forums and processes that civil society organisations have been using to dialogue with the Government.  Although the Tanzanian culture of dialogue with the Government has not used dramatic events such as street demonstrations, but there are other effective channels which take the message across.

How can civil society (organisations) engage in monitoring the PRSP when we do not even know the PRSP and its contents.   Some of us did not get feedback on the PRSP process until when the PRSP document was published!!  In its existing format, the PRSP document cannot be understood by common people or an average citizen.  It is written for those people who know the development/economic jargon.  There is a need to publish a popular, user-friendly version of the PRSP, which demystifies the current version.

The PRSP is not user friendly because it was not produced for the poor, or an average person.  It was produced as a conditionality of the World Bank/IMF.  This not withstanding, we note that this conditionality has been a blessing in disguise.  It now forces the Government to produce and provide data and information on poverty.  Once the PRSP had been to submitted to the World Bank and IMF, it was immediately put on the worldwide web in just a matter of days, where those of use who are fortunate to have access to the internet could access it.  It is critical that the Government of the day should provide information especially information that directly affects the lives of its citizens.  We are told that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) now sells information on poverty,   thereby blocking civil society access to it.  We recommend that all data that the NBS has been paid to produce should be given to consumers free of charge.

Quantitative statistics are difficult, normally causing disagreements and arguments on specific issues such as methodology, interpretation of indicators, analysis, “representative ness” of the sample etc.   Instead of being caught on arguing about specifics, civil society organisations should focus more on monitoring policy implementation.  Since we are working at the grassroot level, near where the poor are located, and since we have eyes to observe, then we know what poverty is.  That makes us have first hand knowledge on what is happening to poverty, and the efficacy/impact of the PRSP.  Without bothering so much on the nitty gritty of statistics, we can bring in the policy dialogue real experiences of the poor.

It is important for us to discuss what our responsibilities are in process of engaging in the monitoring process, and what it actually means in terms of human and financial resources.  What capacities, finances, investment of staff time and so forth go with monitoring poverty?  Ideally, the initiative to involve CSOs in monitoring poverty should keep on expanding until every CSO in the country becomes part of monitoring poverty.

CSO should not just sit and say we are not getting Government documents and reports.  The Government does not have resources to distribute documents to a very wide audience.  Even if 10,000 copies of a policy document are produced, these are still very few.  We have to understand that the Government has to do so many things so quickly all at the same time.  So CSOs should be pro-active in accessing policy documents and disseminating them within their own constituencies.

We are aware of a certain analytic study which shows that Tanzania was going to have more debt after the implementation of the PRSP than it did before the PRSP!!!   This makes us very worried about the true intentions of the PRSP.  Is the PRSP just a ploy of the World Bank/IMF?  We should be careful.  Do not think the World Bank/IMF have suddenly become benevolent and are providing debt relief. The debt relief provided so far is the so called “bad debt”.  Bad debt is debt that records from precious years show that the debtor has no capacity to pay, therefore forcing the creditor to write it off.  The World Bank/IMF are taking advantage of bad debt to improve their public relations with Third World countries, donors and civil society organisations.  What can $60 million annually (amount of full debt relief after completion point) really do to alleviate poverty.  This is approximately $2 per person per year!  What dramatic changes to poverty can this bring?!

Civil society need to deepen it’s critically engagement with Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) here in Tanzania and internationally.  It is useless for civil society to lobby and pressurise our Governments to deliver if they are under unfair pressure from World Bank/IMF.

It was clarified that when the Government wanted to enter the HIPC initiative, it agreed to the condition of producing the PRSP.   The Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs)  wanted to ensure that PRSP’s are not produced in confined Government offices as “confidential documents”.   Governments are well known for working in enclaves.  Conditions were set to ensure that PRSPs are as people oriented as possible.  Seven (07) zonal workshops were conducted to enlist the views of ordinary people to feed into the PRSP.   Understandably, Government’s willingness to provide space for consultations and participation was threatened by Government’s hurry to reach the decision point.

The Government will receive two tranches of debt relief in the interim relief period, and specified amount annually after the completion – point.  The 1st tranche of $12 million has already been provided.   The 2nd tranche of $45 million will be provided  before the completion pointn ; $60 million, will be provided as debt relief annually for 20 years after the completion point.

 

4.2 The presenter summarised by responding to the above discussions as follows:-

It is true that Civil Society Organisations need independently generated data to engage in advocacy activities around the area of poverty and the PRSP.  However, if CSOs do not have concrete and credible data, they may be accused of making sweeping and baseless arguments, and therefore have their case dismissed.

With regard to a forum for civil society/government discussions/feedback; the Government has invited CSOs to be represented in the Steering Committee of the Poverty Monitoring System and all its four (04) technical working groups.

Although one may feel that the Poverty Monitoring System is an ambitious undertaking, we should all bear in mind that the Poverty Monitoring System is not starting from a clean slate.  The Household Budget Survey is underway, Local Government Reforms and other processes will feed and contribute to the output of the Poverty Monitoring System.

A first draft of the Swahili version of the PRSP has been developed.  The Government has plans to extract key messages from the PRSP and produce user friendly animated booklets/posters, and distributed them widely to the general public.

The fear that the Government has restricted “top-secret” documents is just a fear, but in actual practice, I can assure you as a Government civil servant, that there are absolutely no restricted public policy documents that I know about.  Even in the past, Government documents used to be confidential only when they were in the approval process.  Once it has been approved, a document then becomes public for public consumption.  All these documents that you are demanding are available to the public.  They were available to the public in my office, even when they were still in a draft form.

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4.3 Recommendations

bulletCivil Society Organisations should develop their own system of monitoring poverty.
bulletCivil Society Organisations should be pro-active, when it comes to identifying, locating and distributing strategic policy documents.
bulletPoverty related data and information should have no barriers of accessibility, should be widely circulated to the public and should be free of charge.
bulletCivil Society Organisations should avoid being caught on arguments around the nitty gritty of statistical details, instead CSOs should focus on “the bigger picture”, and monitor the impact of policy on the poor.

 

[1] Although this clarification was provided by officials from the World Bank and the Government, the following day, the Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister responsible for Policy was quoted by Majira Newspaper while answering a supplementary question in the Parliament in Dodoma that Tanzania has not received a single penny of debt relief by 04 April 2001.  The decision point to provide interim debit relief was February 2000, over a year ago!!  How do Civil Society organizations engage in monitoring a Government that provides conflicting views, data and information on poverty/PRSP?!!

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