27 May 2014

Tanzania: MPs Irked By Huge Air Tanzania Debt

Dodoma — Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport Peter Serukamba.

AIR Tanzania Company Limited's (ATCL) 133bn/- debt has displeased Members of Parliament (MPs) who have decried it as a major setback in the government's efforts to get a serious investor to revamp the ailing national flag carrier.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport Peter Serukamba told the National Assembly that the committee has been told that most of the potential investors have declined to invest at ATCL for fear of inheriting the debt.

"ATCL has a debt amounting to 133bn/-. Various international companies have shown interest in investing in the company but they have been scared by the huge debt," Mr Serukamba said.

He named the interested investors in ATCL as Turkish Airline, IVIC International, Emirates, Aga Khan Development Foundation, Gaits and Al Hayat of Oman. The committee advised the government to put aside a sufficient amount of money to clear the debt and make the company attractive to investors.

Debating the Ministry of Transport budget estimates for the 2014/15 financial year, Ms Paulina Gekul (Special Seats -Chadema) also expressed concern over the poor status of ATCL, adding that efforts should be made to free the company from debts. Ms Gekul wanted the government to show a specific budget for the purchase of two planes in the next financial year as indicated in the budget speech.

Ms Rita Mlaki (Special Seats - CCM) also urged the government to support ATCL in its revival bid, adding that the national flag carrier was crucial for the country's development and tourism in particular.

She advised the government to make a follow up on a recent Chinese government's promise made by the Chinese Prime Minister, Premier Li Keqiang, over the Asian economic giant's willingness to support the aviation sector in Africa.

In another development, MPs wanted the government to be focused on strategic airports instead of distributing funds to all the airports from a meagre budget. Mr Andrew Chenge (Bariadi West -CCM) emphasised on the importance of incorporating the private sector in airport building, pointing out that the construction of Mwanza Airport has taken so long to complete.

"It seems there is a bureaucracy in the construction of Mwanza Airport, this is a strategic airport, we should have it built fully," he said.

Mr James Mbatia (NCCR-Mageuzi - Nominated) advised the government to put aside sufficient funds for the construction of strategic airports such as Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA), Mwanza Airport, Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) and Songwe instead of distributing a meagre budget to touch all the airports in the country.

He hailed the government for the expansion of JNIA where the construction of Terminal III is on progress. He added that the government should incorporate private actors in the spirit of public private partnership, to see to it that all the airports that need major expansion and construction are worked on.

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