Mozambique : Districts now Poles of Development

Rural districts are responding to the challenge to transform themselves into poles of development. This was the message delivered to reporters by President Armando Guebuza on 4 October. Speaking at a press conference in the town of Macia, at the end of a working visit to the southern province of Gaza, he said that not only are the districts acquiring greater capacity in terms of infrastructure and logistics, but the district consultative councils have ensured greater popular participation and intervention in planning and managing social and economic projects.

While in Gaza, President Guebuza visited the districts of Mabalane, Massingir, Guija, Chokwe and Bilene-Macia. This was the last stage in his annual tour of the country, checking on implementation of the government’s five-year programme, and on the use of the Local Initiative Investment Fund. This is the seven billion meticais (about $290,000) transferred from the state budget to each of the 128 districts every year, for projects intended to increase food production and create jobs.

“People in the districts tell us they want water, electricity, roads”, President Guebuza said. “It’s the district speaking and that’s a great and deep transformation”.

He recognised that there are problems with the Local Initiative Investment Fund, but thought they are of less significance than the problems that the fund is solving.

The problem most often mentioned is that, although the money is not a grant but a loan, most of the beneficiaries are not yet repaying. This could ruin the chances of making this a revolving fund, in which money is recycled.

President Guebuza argued that the problem is more statistical than real, since the beneficiaries have signed contracts that establish the terms and deadlines for repayment. These in turn depend on the type of crop the beneficiaries are growing, and when it is harvested (most of the projects financed are agricultural).

“Naturally, if we don’t manage to solve this problem, we will have difficulties in recovering all our investment”, he said. “It’s a challenge. We have to plan and record better, so that we can know whether we are facing a deficit, or just a situation in which the time has not yet come to repay the money”.

The government recognises that people have difficulties in repaying, he added, and are unable to present guarantees for the reimbursement of the money. But what the government was fundamentally aiming at was to introduce the monetary economy into the countryside. “We’ve already begun to demand. We’re putting pressure on people to pay up”, he insisted.

AIM 2008