Mozambique News Agency
Over the past four years, the Mozambican gross domestic product has grown at an average rate of 7.7 percent a year, and GDP per capita has risen from $301 in 2004 to $473 dollars in 2008, according to the Minister of Planning and Development, Aiuba Cuereneia.
Cuereneia was speaking on 25 March in the country's parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in response to a request from deputies of the ruling Frelimo Party for information on the government's strategy for the fight against poverty.
Other macro-economic indicators were also encouraging. Cuereneia said that the country's international reserves had risen from $961 million in 2004, to $1.606 billion in 2008, enough to cover five months imports of goods and service, considerably more than the three months of imports recommended by the Macro-economic Convergence Programme of the Southern African Development Community.
Because the government had created conditions attractive to investors, he said, between 2005 and 2008, 688 investment projects had been approved which could create more than 81,000 jobs.
Cuereneia stressed the Local Initiative Investment Budget (OIIL), a government initiative under which, as from 2006, seven million meticais (about $280,000) was transferred annually to each of the 128 districts to fund projects to increase food production and create jobs. With the addition of a component to find local infrastructure, the sum allocated to each district has now risen to around 10 million meticais a year.
The Minister said that to date the total amount allocated to the districts from the OIIL stands at five billion meticais. This money has funded 26,000 projects, mostly in agriculture and small-scale industry. It has created 108,000 new jobs (temporary and permanent) in the Mozambican countryside.
In agriculture the areas under cultivation had grown, better production techniques were introduced, and agricultural yields had risen. The number of people living in "pockets of hunger", Cuereneia added, had fallen from about a million in 2004 to 120,000 this year.
Grain production, he continued, had risen from 1.9 million tonnes in 2004 to over 2.3 million tonnes in the 2008 harvest. This year, the government hopes for a further 17 percent increase in grain production, due to its Food Production Action Plan.
There had also been a 14 percent increase in the national cattle herd, rising from 1.4 million head of cattle in 2004 to about 1.6 million head in 2008. This, Cuereneia said, "has not only reduced beef imports, but has increased the area under cultivation, because of the greater availability of oxen for animal traction".
As for water supply, Cuereneia said that since 2004, 7,767 water sources (wells and boreholes) have been built or rehabilitated in the countryside. This raised the number of people with access to clean drinking water from 43 to 52 percent of the rural population. Over the same period, the urban water supply coverage increased from 36 to 50 percent of the people living in the towns.
Since the current government took office in 2005, a further 300,000 domestic consumers have been connected to the national electricity grid. Cuereneia pointed out that this was much higher than the target of 80,000 that the government had initially set.
Between 2005 and 2008, 32 district capitals had been electrified. Currently 83 district capitals are on the national grid, and a further 10 will be added this year.
Mozambique's Constitutional Council on 31 March validated the result of the second round of the mayoral election in the northern port of Nacala, won by the candidate of the ruling Frelimo Party - but also called for those responsible for fraud in several polling stations to be prosecuted.
The second round election was held on 11 February and saw the Frelimo candidate, Chale Ossufo gain 24,131 votes (54.7 percent) against the Renamo candidate Manuel dos Santos who received 20,012 votes (45.3 percent).
However, Renamo national spokesperson Fernando Mazanga has vowed to reject these results, and has threatened not to hand the municipality over to the elected mayor.
Mazanga branded the result fraudulent and said Renamo had no intention of vacating the Nacala municipal offices. He claimed that the central government was sending an armed force to Nacala, including "300 agents of SISE" (the state intelligence service).
The death by asphyxiation of 13 prisoners in an overcrowded police cell in Liupo, capital of the northern district of Mogincual, on 17 March, was the result of police "negligence and lack of professionalism", said Prime Minister Luisa Diogo on 27 March.
The Prime Minister was addressing the Assembly the Republic in an emergency debate on the Mogincual deaths, requested by the opposition Renamo-Electoral Union.
Diogo stressed that the government is committed to the defence of human rights, and to constitutional provision that all citizens enjoy the right to life. She described what happened in Mogincual as "repugnant", and "an affront to the rule of law, to national reconciliation and to development".
Diogo added that the government is implementing a strategic plan for the justice sector, intended to modernise the entire administration of justice, "so that citizens will have speedy access to justice, and will be treated with dignity".
She said the police officers in Mogincual who allowed the tragedy to happen are being held responsible, and will face both disciplinary and criminal proceedings.
Giving further details, of the Mogincual events, Interior Minister Jose Pacheco, placed them in the context of a wave of rumours in the coastal parts of Nampula province that claimed that health workers and Red Cross activists, far from combating an outbreak of cholera were spreading the disease.
When volunteers from the Mozambican Red Cross (CVM) visited communities and urged them to disinfect wells with chlorine, a rumour alleged that the chlorine actually causes the disease. The result has been a series of riots in Mogincual and the neighbouring district of Angoche, in which Red Cross activists have been murdered, their property stolen and their houses burnt to the ground.
Pacheco said that such disturbances occurred in the Mogincual locality of Quinga on 13 March, leading to the death of a local trader, and the abduction of a woman CVM activist. The police intervened and rescued the activist, who was being buried alive.
Pacheco said the police arrested 29 people believed to be promoting the rumours, and took them to Mogincual where people detained for other offences were already incarcerated. Pacheco put the total number of prisoners in the cell at 34.
Television footage showed a small room with no windows, and just one small opening through which air could enter. The TV crew estimated that the cell measured 12 square metres. Its maximum capacity was for 10 people.
12 people died in this cell shortly after midnight. The autopsies, Pacheco said, showed that "the prisoners died of asphyxiation due to overcrowding of the cell, revealing negligence on the part of the leadership of the Mogincual district police command".
"The government", he added, "does not protect public servants who fail to carry out their mission of serving the people with zeal and professionalism". Three police officers (Mogincual district commander Domingos Countinho, the local head of the Criminal Investigation Police, Basilio Nakoto, and the officer on duty on the fatal night, Luis Abel) were thus suspended, while disciplinary proceedings were initiated. The Public Prosecutors Office also intervened, charging the three policemen with manslaughter.
Unlike several members of the parliamentary group of Frelimo, neither Diogo nor Pacheco attempted to blame the opposition for the deaths in the Mogincual cell. But they did condemn the cholera riots, which have been widely blamed on Renamo. "The government repudiates disinformation and incitement to violence", stressed Pacheco, "and protects and defends the victims".
The riots were an assault on the rule of law, he said, and were "a threat to the peace and harmony which characterize the Mozambican family".
In the debate that followed Renamo claimed that Frelimo had "assassinated" the prisoners, and was a party "soaked in blood". Jose Manteigas declared, "Frelimo is used to living off blood. It is no coincidence that the entire Frelimo flag is red. Frelimo kills those who don't agree with it".
Manteigas demanded the resignation of Pacheco. "This is what the people expect from (President Armando) Guebuza", he said. "Frelimo and the government should be held responsible, and the families of the dead properly compensated".
For Frelimo, Mateus Katupha put the Mogincual events into a pattern of Renamo violence over the years, claiming that Renamo's preferred targets are always "teachers, health workers, policemen".
The 19 donors and funding agencies that provide direct support to the Mozambican state budget on 18 March signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the government that extends this aid for the next five years.
Under the previous MoU the government received $1.689 billion in budget support between 2004 and 2008. The pledges for 2009 budget support amount to $455 million.
The 19 partners are known collectively as the Programme Aid Partners (PAPs). They include the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Commission, most member states of the European Union (prior to its expansion into eastern Europe), plus Norway, Switzerland and Canada. The only major donors not yet providing direct budget support are the United States and Japan.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Minister of Planning and Development, Aiuba Cuereneia, said that there were now fewer conditionalities in the granting of budget support. Under the old memorandum, nine of the PAPs specified "exceptions" to their aid. This has fallen to two.
Cuereneia stressed that government and donors "have made substantial progress in aligning foreign aid with national development priorities, in harmonising practices, and in using the national planning and financial management systems".
The government, he added, is well aware that in addition to foreign aid, poverty reduction over the medium and long term, must involved attracting further flows of investment "because these have the potential to stimulate sustainable economic growth, to create jobs, and to transfer technology and know-how to workers".
Private investment would also establish new companies, and contribute to state revenue through taxes. "The government and the international community have an important role to play in stimulating and encouraging these investment flows", the minister said.
"Economic growth and development cannot come only from foreign aid", he declared, "although this aid is necessary and essential for our development".
The budget for 2009, passed by the Assembly of the Republic, depends on foreign grants and loans for 53 percent of expenditure.
The MoU provides the government with a measure of financial predictability, since the PAPs each give three-year predictions of their budget support allocations by the end of February each year.
The Japanese government, through its embassy in Maputo, has granted $88,425 for the building of a Rural Health Centre in the locality of Ambrosio, in the district of Boane, about 40 kilometres west of Maputo.
The project, to be completed within the next six months, is to be carried out by Futuro Conjunto (FUCOM), a Mozambican non-governmental organization, and it includes the construction and the equipping of the health centre.
The health centre is to benefit directly 5,000 people in the Ambrosio locality, and another 15,000 from Boane and the neighbouring districts of Namaacha and Matutuine.
This project is part of the Japanese programme to assist communities in Mozambique, which has been sponsoring six projects every year.
The Canadian government has promised $7.5 million to support the second phase of Mozambican public sector reform. The agreement to this effect (an addendum to a 2007 memorandum of understanding) was signed on 26 March by the Ministers of Planning and Development and of Public Service, Aiuba Cuereneia and Vitoria Diogo, and Canadian High Commissioner Philip Baker.
The money is paid into the common fund to support the public sector reform, the second phase of which runs from 2006 to 2011. The funds will be spent on developing the four priority areas of the reform, namely: professionalising the staff of the public administration, improvements in service provision, strengthening local government bodies, and good governance and the fight against corruption.
The common fund is also financed by Denmark, Britain, Sweden, Ireland, Norway, Italy, Holland, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
Implementation of the public sector reform cost $17 million in 2007, and the government expected to spend $14 million dollars in 2008.
The purpose of the common fund is to coordinate donor efforts to support implementation of the reforms under way, and to increase the predictability of funding.
The Swedish government has granted $169.4 million to support the Mozambican state budget in the period 2009-2012, plus $11.05 million in support of the country's national agricultural development programme (PROAGRI) until 2010. A document to that effect was signed in Maputo on 25 March between Mozambican Foreign Minister Oldemiro Baloi and Swedish Ambassador Torvald Akesson.
The loan is in line with the new memorandum of understanding signed on 18 March between Mozambique and the 19 donors and funding agencies who provide direct support to the state budget.
The support for PROAGRI is described as part of the efforts to help develop agriculture and stimulate production for domestic consumption and for export. The aid is also designed to help develop sustainability of the management and conservation of natural resources.
Baloi and Akesson also signed a document on general cooperation, following the approval in August 2008 of a new strategy for cooperation between Mozambique and Sweden. The new strategy focuses assistance on five main areas, namely democracy and governance, agriculture, energy, institutional capacity building, and natural disasters. Sweden is also prepared to continue supporting support non-governmental initiatives, particularly from universities and civil society organizations.
The government of the United States is currently spending about $4 million a year in the fight against tuberculosis in Mozambique. US funding for the anti-tuberculosis programme has risen very substantially. In 2002, the US annual grant for the fight against this disease was only $150,000.
The funds come from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a programme that was set up by President George W. Bush and continued by his successor, Barack Obama. Money for tuberculosis can come from this fund, because TB is the most common of the opportunist infections that invade people whose immune systems have been weakened by the HIV virus, and is the most common cause of death among HIV-positive people.
According to the 2008 report of the World Health Organization (WHO), Mozambique is placed 17th in a list of the 22 countries with the highest rates of tuberculosis prevalence in the world.
The failure to conquer TB is linked to HIV/AIDS. The WHO statistics also indicate that around 50 percent of all tuberculosis patients in Mozambique are HIV-positive.
Due to the US support Mozambique managed to increase by 82 percent its Directly Observed Therapy (DOTS) coverage in six selected districts, and to distribute 25 microscopes for exams of phlegm. The funds have also been used to develop a training curriculum for nurses on tuberculosis, to boost the capacity of the national TB laboratory, and create a National Commission for Tuberculosis/HIV, among other actions.
According to Todd Amani, the Mozambique director of USAID, "until we, as partners, have effectively brought TB under control in Mozambique, we are all at risk. We must work together to confront TB and HIV, through stepping up detection, controlling infections in health units, increasing TB prophylaxis, expanding DOTS coverage, and strengthening laboratory services".
Brazil has pledged to help Mozambique set up a peacekeeping unit, which can be used in African Union and other humanitarian and peacekeeping operations around the continent.
A group of officers from the Brazilian army will soon arrive in Mozambique to start training the troops that will form this unit, according to Brazilian Defence Minister Nelson Jobim, speaking to reporters in Maputo on 26 March after an audience with President Armando Guebuza.
Training will take place at barracks in Moamba district, about 70 kilometres northwest of Maputo, which were inaugurated last October. The construction of the barracks was financed by the British government, costing $380,000, while the United States provided kitchen and canteen equipment worth £300,000.
During his one-day visit to Maputo, Jobim also signed a cooperation agreement with his Mozambican counterpart Filipe Nyussi. Among other matters, this covers a programme under which Brazil will train Mozambican pilots.
To facilitate this programme Brazil is offering P27 light aircraft to Mozambique. Tobim promised that the first of these planes would arrive in Maputo shortly.
Minister of Public Works, Felicio Zacarias, on 26 March insisted that by the end of this year 55 percent of all Mozambicans will have access to clean drinking water, thus meeting the target in the government's five year programme.
Speaking in a debate on poverty alleviation in the Assembly of the Republic, Zacarias said that particular attention is being paid to Nampula and Zambezia provinces, which between them are home to around 40 percent of the Mozambican population, but which have the lowest rates of drinking water coverage.
In 2004, he said, only 18.6 percent of the Nampula population had access to safe water. That has now doubled, to 36.1 percent, but is still the lowest rate in the country. Over the same period, the coverage in Zambezia has risen from 22.8 to 37.5 percent of the population. By comparison, in Maputo province, the rate rose from 54.9 to 79.5 percent. The sparsely populated northern province of Niassa saw a similar rise, from 59.2 to 79.1 percent.
Taking the country as a whole, over this period, coverage in rural areas rose from 43 to 52 percent, and in urban areas from 36 to 50 percent.
"The education of girls is the condition for our survival as a people and for our economic triumph", declared Mozambican Education Minister Aires Aly on 25 March.
Speaking in the Assembly of the Republic in response to a request from opposition deputies for information on the measures the government is taking to improve education, Aly said that substantial progress has been made in increasing the number of girls attending school.
Girls accounted for 44.6 percent of the pupils in the first five years of primary education in 2002, and this rose to 47.2 percent in 2008. In second level primary education (grades six and seven), the rise was from 39.4 to 43.9 percent, while in the first cycle of secondary education (grades eight to 10), it was from 40.1 to 43.1 percent.
"Certainly we have lots of girls in the system," said Aly, "but our target is to reach the minimum proportion of 50 percent. Our challenge for this battle begins at home, in the family, in society. It is the task of all of us to mobilise, encourage and support the training of women".
Turning to technical and professional education, one of the main priorities of the government's education policy, Aly said the number of such schools has risen from 41 in 2004 to 77 today. The number of students in technical education had risen by 19.3 percent since 2005 and now stood at 55,038.
Aly stressed that there can be no good quality education without properly trained teachers. So the government had reformed the teacher training curriculum, introducing new training models for primary and secondary education, "which prepare the trainee, providing him with didactic and pedagogical tools for the correct management of the teaching/learning process". The reform was intended, he added, "to reduce significantly the recruitment of teachers without the qualifications necessary for teaching".
The response from the Renamo benches was to claim that nothing has improved in the country's education system, that many classes are still held under trees, or with children sitting on the floor for want of desks. Leopoldo Ernesto claimed there were too many reforms with "constant changes of curriculum at all levels".
For Frelimo, deputy Bendita Mchumali pointed out that the worst disaster to overtake Mozambican education occurred in the 1980s, when Renamo marauded across the countryside during the war of destabilisation, burning down most of the rural school network. "Now they come here and talk about the quality of education, when yesterday they were destroying schools and killing the pupils", she exclaimed.
Africa's largest bank, the Standard Bank, in association with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), has created an innovative fund for small African farmers, including Mozambicans.
According to AGRA the fund will benefit farmers in Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda, offering loan opportunities to small farmers.
AGRA and other partners are providing a loan guarantee fund of $10 million, while in turn Standard Bank is making $100 million available for lending over the next three years.
A memorandum of understanding establishing the rules between the partners was signed in Accra on 18 March between AGRA President Namanga Ngongi, Standard Bank Chief Executive Jacko Maree, and Mozambican Agriculture Minister Soares Nhaca, who is a board member of the Millennium Challenge Account-Mozambique, which is the first country partner of the programme.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, former United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan, who is also chairperson of the AGRA board, hailed the agreement. "Our action today recognises that the global food crisis is exerting major problems in Africa", he said. "Inflation, food shortages, and trade imbalances all pose huge social, economic, and political risks. But while credit is frozen worldwide, Africa cannot wait for a thaw. Programmes such as this, which increase the productivity of smallholder farmers and help catalyse an African Green Revolution, will ultimately enable Africa to achieve food security and stability, and thus improve the entire global outlook".
Lack of access to financing is a major obstacle preventing farmers from investing in basic inputs such as good seeds, fertilizers and small-scale irrigation, all of which are necessary to increase agricultural productivity.
As a result, the yields of these farmers are just a quarter of the world average, leading to hunger and poverty across Africa, Annan pointed out. Little or no commercial financing has been made available to entrepreneurs who seek to build businesses that would boost African food production.
The new credit programme is based on studies conducted by the Rockefeller Foundation in Uganda, that helped increase loans to small scale farmers, and which five years later had a loan default rate of less than two percent.
The $100 million partnership between AGRA and the Standard Bank will inaugurate the biggest ever funding for agriculture by a single African bank.
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