Tanzania scraps government Christmas cards to save cash

Dar es Salaam: Tanzanian officials will not be allowed to send out the usual government printed Christmas and New Year cards this year as part of belt-tightening measures by the new president.

John Magufuli has implemented a series of austerity steps since being sworn in on Nov. 5, including cancelling independence day festivities and restricting foreign travel by officials.

The president's chief secretary "has prohibited the printing of Christmas and New Year cards at the government's expense," the presidency said in a statement. "Anyone who wants to print those cards should do so at his or her own personal cost."

"The funds set aside for the cards should be used to pay off debts that government ministries, departments and institutions owe citizens and other creditors for goods and services rendered or should be directed towards other priority areas," it said.

Last week, Magufuli ordered the sum of about $100,000 that had been set aside for a party to mark the opening of parliament should be used instead to buy hospital beds at Tanzania's main hospital, after he found patients sleeping on the floor.

The president has issued a raft of instructions to curb government spending, winning praise from citizens of the nation of 47 million or so. The public have long complained about officials who they say abuse office in the poor nation.

Underscoring his popularity since winning, Twitter hashtags associated with the president, such as #WhatWouldMagufuliDo, have quickly become top trending topics among social network users in East Africa.