Mozambique News Agency

AIM Reports

 


No.365, 26th September 2008


 

Contents

 


Urgent need to lower food prices – President Guebuza

President Armando Guebuza said in New York on 22 September that urgent measures must be taken to check the growing rise in food prices, before this becomes an insoluble problem, preventing countries from attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

Speaking in one of the panels during the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly President Guebuza said “we must act now. All of us, whether we are in developed or developing countries, must act to find a solution to check the hunger that affects the majority of our people and to meet the MDGs to which we are all committed”.

He stressed that taking into account the seriousness of food shortage and of rising prices, it is imperative that action ins taken immediately “because tomorrow may be too late”.

He noted that the situation led his government to embark on a “green revolution” to produce more food in Mozambique. So that humanity can take advantage of the experiences of each country in food production, President Guebuza added, it is fundamental that there should be regular exchanges of research results.

The General Assembly meeting opened with UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon, reiterating his call for member states to do all in their power to work towards the development of Africa, where about half of its estimated 700 million inhabitants are living in absolute poverty.

Addressing the 100 or so heads of state and government present, he accused the developed countries of making promises of aid that they never fulfil.

He warned that instead of feeling paralysed by the frequent claims that Africa is too late to meet the MDGs, the rich nations must speed up actions towards these goals. He insisted that the continent could still attain the MDGs before the cut-off date of 2015.

Speaking after Ban, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, current chairperson of the African Union, noted that the unfulfilled promises by the rich countries not only do not help developing Africa, but also put African leaders in a shaky situation because their peoples think that the money is being disbursed and misused.

On 21 September President Guebuza attended a dinner hosted by his Austrian counterpart Heinz Fischer, where the main issue under debate was water supply in Africa as a development factor. Other guests included the heads of state of Uganda, Senegal, Burundi, Nigeria, Namibia, Malawi, Sao Tome and Prince, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and the president of the African Development Bank.

The Millennium Development Goals, agreed by the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, include halving, between 1990 and 2015, the number of people living on less than one US dollar a day; ensuring universal primary education; reducing the under five mortality rate by two thirds and the maternal mortality rate by three quarters; and halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water. The cut off date for all the goals is 2015.

 


Donors confirm budget support

Donor pledges to Mozambique for 2009, in both direct budget support and project aid, have risen by $72 million – mainly due to fluctuations in the dollar exchange rate.

The sums were announced on 18 September at the end of a month long review of progress between the Mozambican government and its 19 “Programme Aid Partners” (PAP). These are the donors and funding agencies that provide at least part of their assistance in the form of direct budget support. The PAP includes the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Commission, most western European countries, and Canada. The major donors who do not provide budget support are the United States and Japan.

 


Mixed progress towards MDGs

The Mozambican government believes that it is on track for meeting one of the key targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), that of halving the percentage of people living on less than a dollar a day.

The government is optimistic that, at the current rate of poverty reduction, the number of people living below the poverty line will fall from the 2003 figure of 54.1 per cent to 45 per cent in 2009, and to 40 per cent by 2015. This will meet the MDG target assuming that in 1990 80 per cent of the population were living below the poverty line. Due to the war of destabilisation there are no accurate figures for that year – the first reliable figure is from the household survey of the mid-1990s, which put the number of people below the poverty line in 1997 at 67 per cent.

The government admits that there are serious challenges to be faced, especially in the area of nutrition. The generic title of the first MDG is “Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger” - but current statistics show alarming levels of child malnutrition. The number of children suffering from insufficient growth, as measured by their weight, fell from 23.7 per cent in 2003 to 20.5 per cent in 2006. But this is still well above the “acceptable” level of 16 per cent, and the target of 17 per cent that the government has set for 2015.

Worse, the level of “moderate and severe acute malnutrition” among children under five years old rose over the same period from 4.1 per cent to 4.5 per cent. “Moderate and severe chronic malnutrition” in the same age group rose from 41 per cent in 2003 to 46.2 per cent in 2006. (Chronic malnutrition generally results from poor food intake over a long period, resulting in stunting. Acute malnutrition is a medical emergency, with a severe loss of weight and the threat of death from starvation).

Progress has been made in the MDGs concerning child mortality. The MDG target is to reduce mortality among under fives by two thirds by 2015. This looks achievable, although once again there is no figure for the base year of 1990. The government’s figures show that mortality among under fives fell from 147 per 1,000 live births in 1997 to 105 in 2006, a decline of 29 per cent.

For maternal mortality, the MDG target is to reduce the rate by three quarters by 2015. Yet the number of women who die from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth remains unacceptably high – 214 per 100,000 live births in 2005, and 253 per 100,000 live births in 2006.

On HIV/AIDS, the MDGs call for halting, and beginning to reverse the spread of the disease. The good news here is that HIV prevalence among adults aged between 15 and 49 seems to have stabilized at around 16 per cent. But the government warns that AIDS remains “one of the greatest threats to Mozambique’s development”.

The government reported an increase in the distribution of condoms with 4.3 million distributed in the first half of 2008, compared with 2.8 million in the first six months of 2007.

As for the anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs that prolong the lives of HIV-positive people, the target for this year is to reach 132,280 people undergoing ARV therapy. By the end of June 74.5 per cent of this figure had been achieved. Meeting the target means putting another 5,600 people a month on ARVs in the second half of the year.

As for paediatric ARV treatment, the target is for 10,582 children to receive ARVs by the end of the year. By the end of June 67 per cent of the target had been met.

In the fight against malaria, about three million mosquito nets treated with long lasting insecticide were distributed in the first quarter of the year – which still comes nowhere near meeting the target of at least two nets per household.

The key environmental MDG is to reduce by half, again by 2015, the percentage of people without sustainable access to clean drinking water. Substantial investments in water supply mean that this goal looks feasible. The government’s figures show that the percentage of rural dwellers with access to clean water rose from 36.5 per cent in 2001 to 48.5 per cent in 2007. Surprisingly, the coverage in urban areas is only 40 per cent.

In the first half of 2008, 20 new wells were built, 230 new boreholes were drilled, and 131 water sources were rehabilitated. This was 25.4 per cent of the government’s target of 1,500 new and rehabilitated sources for the year.

Progress in the cities was faster than expected. There were 23,721 new connections to the water system (the target was of 12,086), and 474 public standpipes were installed rather than the 150 planned.

In education, the Millennium Goal is that, by 2015, every boy and girl can complete primary education. Mozambique’s net attendance rate in first level primary education (EP1 – covering grades one to five) rose from 44 per cent in 1997 to 100.2 per cent this year (rates of over 100 per cent are possible, because many children older than the theoretical primary school age are attending).

For all of primary education (up to grade seven), the attendance rate rose from 94.1 per cent in 2007 to 99.2 per cent in 2008.

The figures are impressive, but lower than the government’s targets. Thus there are slightly more than 4.1 million children in EP1, but the government target for 2008 was 4.3 million. The growth rate in EP2 (grades six and even) was 14.4 per cent, a sharp rise for a single year, but the government had hoped for a rise of over 25 per cent.

The major blockage is that there are not enough schools teaching EP2 – 2,210 in the entire country, so that many children graduating from EP1 cannot find a place in EP2.

To achieve the MDG education target, the government stresses, will require more attention to the conclusion of primary education, and improved quality of education.

 


Growth rate slows to 6.7 per cent

Mozambique’s growth rate has slowed down this year, partly due to disappointing results in agriculture. According to the government’s balance sheet for implementing the 2008 social and economic plan, in the first six months of the year total production grew by 6.7 per cent compared with the January-June period of 2007. This is considerably below the 8.4 growth in production planned for the entire year, or the 8.8 per cent growth rate recorded in the first half of 2007.

Agricultural growth was only 4.7 per cent, compared with a target for the year of 7.5 per cent. The government blames the agricultural shortfall on bad weather in the first part of the year. Large amounts of crops were lost to flooding in central Mozambique, particularly in the Zambezi valley, while parts of southern Mozambique suffered from the opposite problem, drought.

Nonetheless, grain production has risen significantly. The 2008 grain harvest is estimated at 2.3 million tonnes, while the 2007 harvest was 2.15 million tonnes. This was not simply due to expanding the area under cultivation. There were also genuine productivity gains.

Thus the amount of land under maize grew by 2.7 per cent, but maize production was up 7.9 per cent. Likewise the area planted with rice grew by only one per cent, but there was a three per cent increase in rice production.

The same trend can be seen in other crops, Production of cassava, a crucial staple in much of the country, rose from 8.2 million tonnes in the 2007 harvest to 8.5 million tonnes this year, a rise of 3.7 per cent, although the area under cassava production only increased by two per cent.

As for cash crops, there was a strong showing by cashew producers, but a disappointing cotton harvest. The target for 2008 is a 14.3 per cent rise in cashew marketing – but the first six months showed a 29.8 per cent rise compared to January-June 2007. Cotton production however was only up by 1.1 per cent, when the target for the year is 10.6 per cent.

Sugar sales showed an increase of 19 per cent, but the target for the year is an optimistic 41.1 per cent.

Manufacturing industry, targeted to grow by 4.1 per cent during the year, in fact shrank by 2.5 per cent between January and June. This was overwhelmingly due to the impact of South Africa’s electricity crisis on the MOZAL aluminium smelter. MOZAL needs around 900 megawatts of power to operate at full capacity, and this is supplied by MOTRACO, a company jointly owned by the Mozambican, South Africa and Swazi power utilities (EDM, ESKOM and SEB). But MOTRACO’s power is drawn from ESKOM, and ESKOM found itself unable to meet demand in the first months of the year, due to years of failure to invest in new generating capacity.

ESKOM had to impose cuts of ten per cent in power supplied to large industries – such as the aluminium smelters in Richards Bay and Maputo. MOZAL was forced to take 47 of its 500 furnaces out of operation.

But if MOZAL (which accounts for 75 per cent of all Mozambican manufacturing) is left out of the picture, manufacturing industry grew by 14.2 per cent. Making key contributions to this were the food and drink industry (where production increased by 7.4 per cent), tobacco processing (11.2 per cent) and clothing (25 per cent).

Production of electricity also fell sharply, as did electricity exports to South Africa. This was due to maintenance work on the South African Apollo sub-station, which made it impossible for ESKOM to absorb the amount of energy it normally imports from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi. Total Mozambican electricity production fell from 8.2 million megawatt-hours in the first half of 2007 to 6.9 million in the same period this year.

Transport and communication grew by 15.5 per cent, but the annual target is 22.7 per cent. Rail transport showed a decline of 9.3 per cent, blamed on the failure of the private-led consortium CDN (Northern Development Corridor) to make the promised investments in the line between the port of Nacala and Malawi, and the continuing decline in Zimbabwean use of the Beira port and rail system.

Mining grew by 42.9 per cent in the first six months, well in excess of the 30 per cent target for the year. The figure would have been much higher had it not been for bad weather on the northern coast which temporarily halted production of titanium minerals at the dredge mine in Moma district. There was a sharp increase in the recorded production of gold, and certain precious stones (tourmalines and aquamarines).

Growth in the construction industry was 9.6 per cent (target for the year, nine per cent). However, in the critical road sector, rehabilitation and maintenance was far below the planned levels. 217 kilometres of primary roads are supposed to be rehabilitated this year. But in the first six months only 28 kilometres (13 per cent) were finished. Periodic maintenance is to be undertaken on 917 kilometres of road this year – but in the first six months, this type of maintenance was only carried out on 87 kilometres (9.5 per cent). As for the smaller scale routine maintenance, this covered 5,891 kilometres, which is a third of the 2008 target of 17,600 kilometres.

Other areas of the economy growing somewhat faster than expected are restaurants and hotels (15 per cent), trade (8.4 per cent), and financial services (4.1 per cent).

 


Former Interior Minister arrested

Police on 22 September arrested former Interior Minister, Almerino Manhenje, in connection with the disappearance of funds from the Interior Ministry when he was at its head. He held the job between November 1996 and January 2005.

The arrest was carried out on the orders of the Maputo City Attorney’s office, as Manhenje was giving a class at Maputo’s Higher Institute of International Relations (ISRI) where he is a lecturer. A further eight people have been arrested alongside Manhenje, including former financial directors of the Interior Ministry and of the riot police.

In December 2005, Manhenje’s successor, Jose Pacheco, told reporters that an audit of the Ministry revealed that 220 billion old meticais (about $8.8 million) could not be accounted for.

Pacheco said that the auditors decided to make a thorough check on the Ministry’s assets and its entire staff. The auditors checked the physical existence of the people drawing wages from the Ministry, and discovered that there were 55 “ghost workers” – people who had died, or who had never existed in the first place, but whose wages were collected every month.

Despite the damning audit the investigations made no headway until President Armando Guebuza sacked Attorney-General Joaquim Madeira and replaced him with Augusto Paulino, a judge with a reputation for integrity and courage.

 


Spanish assistance for courts

The Spanish government’s international cooperation agency, AECID, has pledged a million euros ($1.47 million) to support improvements in the quality of the Mozambican justice system.

The memorandum of understanding was signed in Maputo on 23 September by the Deputy President of the Supreme Court, Luis Sacramento, and the AECID coordinator in Mozambique, Miguel Gonzalez Gullon. The agreement will last for three years.

About 140 Mozambican magistrates will benefit from training, and several courts, including the Maputo City Court, will receive computers.

Sacramento said the Spanish support would help improve the quality of judges and law officers, and the whole of the judicial system so that trials may be held in a more effective and speedy fashion.

He said the Supreme Court has selected young magistrates, who have already shown a positive attitude towards their work, to benefit from the training available under the memorandum. “We think the younger generation has a different, responsible attitude to work”, he said. “They don’t have the vices of the past, they don’t suffer from the spirit of apathy and drift. We will ensure that this group of young magistrates understands how to organise the machinery of justice. We will bring the court secretariats to respond to the needs of citizens, and of the legal system, by modernizing antiquated forms of management”.

In the initial stage, the programme will cover the commercial sections of the Maputo and Beira courts, the Maputo first urban district court, and the criminal and civil sections of the Nampula provincial court. It will then be gradually extended to cover other courts.

 


$2.5 billion for new power line

Mozambique’s publicly owned electricity company, EDM, in partnership with as yet unspecified funding agencies, plans to invest $2.5 billion in a new electricity transmission line from the western province of Tete to Maputo.

Speaking to reporters on 22 September, Energy Minister Salvador Namburete said this line would help reduce the country’s dependence on South Africa. The current line from the Cahora Bassa dam on the Zambezi southwards does not reach Maputo or other urban centres in southern Mozambique.

Instead it goes to the Apollo sub-station in South Africa. Electricity is then imported from South Africa to supply Maputo. This is treated as Cahora Bassa power, and so EDM pays the Cahora Bassa operating company, HCB, in local currency, but it must also pay the South Africa electricity company, Eskom, a rental for the line.

Namburete said that studies for building the new line were at a “conclusive phase”. These studies should show the most viable and sustainable options for building the line.

Namburete did not venture a date for the start of construction, but stressed that the project is urgent. He argued that a new line is indispensable for the new electricity generating capacity to be built in Tete, notably the Mphanda Nkuwa dam, to be built on the Zambezi some 60 kilometres downstream from Cahora Bassa. This dam, budgeted at $1.65 billion, will generate 1,500 megawatts. There are also projects for giant coal fired power stations in Tete.

“Without this new transmission line, it’s difficult to advance to the other electricity generation projects that we want to develop”, said the Minister. “We want to supply the urban centres of the south from within Mozambique, and ensure that electricity reaches other parts of the country”.

 


 

This is a condensed version of the AIM daily news service - for details contact aim@aim.org.mz

 


email: Mozambique News Agency


Return to index