While not quite the six months it took his Nigerian counterpart, president John Magufuli at last revealed the make-up of his highly anticipated cabinet on Thursday (Dec. 10), a month after being sworn into office. He fulfilled his campaign promise of a small government, appointing 19 ministers. That compares with 30 cabinet ministers in former president Kikwete’s government.
“We wanted to fulfill our promise of a lean cabinet so that we can help reduce government spending,” he told (in Kiswahili) reporters at State House.
In his short time in office, Magufuli has already developed a reputation for austerity following several measures aimed at reducing expenditure. He has cut down on foreign trips by government officials, cancelled the pomp and circumstance that accompanies annual independence day celebrations and even banned government offices from buying and distributing Christmas cards.
Magufuli named a government that includes new faces mixed in with figures from the previous administration. Among the stand-out fresh cabinet members is the new foreign minister Augustine Mahiga. It is a smart choice considering the new president’s lack of experience in foreign affairs. Mahiga brings in a wealth of foreign policy background having been the country’s UN ambassador for seven years between 2003-2010.
One surprise returnee is Sospeter Muhongo who takes up his old docket at energy and minerals. He resigned the post in January after his ministry was embroiled in a corruption scandal. While he was never personally implicated in the affair, he nevertheless stepped down for what he described as “national development” reasons. The ministry is more economically important than ever. Tanzania boasts over 50 trillion cubic feet of discovered natural gas and is partnering with the oil industry to develop a $30 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.
Missing in Magufuli’s announcement were four names that will occupy the ministries of finance, transport and infrastructure, education and, natural resources and tourism.
The delay over the naming of a new finance minister leaves an element of uncertainty, at least for the time being, on what will define Magufuli’s economic doctrine. While he has indicated an inclination towards austerity, he also promised free education during the campaign. If he lives up to his promises, that would make him a small government progressive. The appointment of a finance minister would be the first concrete tell on whether that is who he wants to be.
“I have not found the right person yet. I am still thinking about it” he said. “Patience breeds blessings. So no need to rush.”