HOPES are high for completing construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) from Dar es Salaam to Makutupora in Singida within the deadline next year after the government on Friday signed an agreement to secure a 3.3tri/- (US dollars 1.46 billion) loan from 17 lenders.
The government signed the agreement with Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania, which is a main player in the list of those lenders and mobilizer of the funds, to finance the project.
During the signing ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Finance and Planning Minister Philip Mpango remarked: "I have been anxiously waiting for this day. We (the government) say that for what you have done you will always remain in the hearts of Tanzanians."
The loan, which will be paid over a 20 year period, will speed up construction for phase one and two, with phase one already completed by 70 per cent and the second one by 30 per cent.
The first phase involves the construction of the 250-kilometre SGR from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro and the second phase from Morogoro to Dodoma (422 kilometres).
The modern railway is expected to reduce time of travel using an electric train, as opposed to a bus.
Currently, road networks experience congestion because a huge chunk of cargo is transported via roads, but the SGR will relieve the roads since trains will be transporting it.
Dr Mpango remarked that 17 institutions coming forward to finance the project proved that Tanzania had many development partners. However he didn't go into details of the institutions.
"With this, you are leaving a great legacy to Tanzania and neighbouring countries which are also going to benefit from this railway," the minister stated.
He pointed out that the project was very significant to the journey of transforming the country's economy, and that was why the government decided to take loan.
"Our national debt is still sustainable, and we must take a loan because this railway will change the economy of the country for the next generations since the life span of this railway is 200 years," he stated.
He called on other local financial institutions to emulate the example shown by 17 partners, saying there were still other projects that needed funding, such as the railway section from Mwanza to Shinyanga and Isaka.
On his part, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Standard Charted Bank Tanzania, Mr Sanjay Rughani said, yesterday marked a historic moment for the bank because what they did would change the lives of many people.
"There is no better legacy that you can leave than constructing infrastructures for the country," noted Mr Rughani, who expressed commitment that the bank would raise the US dollars 1.46 million to fund the SGR.
He said raising the funds for the SGR truly amplifies what the bank stands for because the railway would facilitate development of agriculture, business, optimize resources that Tanzania has and drive social impacts.
Some members of the diplomatic corps who were invited at the signing ceremony commented that the SGR will be a magnet for private investments and Tanzania's future economic development.