THE government has allocated 500 billion/- to the national carrier Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) alone in the next financial year, allowing the company to focus on introducing long distance international route flights perhaps sooner rather than later.
The Minister for Works, Transport and Communication, Prof Makame Mbarawa, told parliament here yesterday that the funds will be spent on completing purchase payments for three new planes - two Bombardier CS300 jetliners with 127-passenger capacities each, and a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner with a much bigger seating capacity of 262 passengers.
The Dreamliner, which will be able to carry passengers in a three-class configuration, is expected to be delivered in June 2018, boosting the once-ailing ATCL’s fleet to a total of seven aircraft.
The minister said flights to Nairobi (Kenya), Entebbe (Uganda) and Kigali (Rwanda) will start on arrival of another Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 plane in July this year, to add to the two which are already operational on domestic routes.
Flights to West Africa, Central Africa, South Africa and Eastern Central India will commence with the arrival of the CS300s, while flights to China, United States and Europe will be introduced on arrival of the Dreamliner, he added.
“The government is committed to strengthening the country's aviation sector as part of ongoing efforts to boost economic growth in general by making it possible for tourists to fly directly to Tanzania from their countries or origin," Mbarawa told the National Assembly.
He said between July 2016 and March this year, ATCL carried 47,510 passengers compared to 32,434 passengers in 2015/2016, representing a 46 per cent increase. The increased number of passengers started in October 2016 after the purchase of the first two Bombardier Q400s, he explained.
He was tabling the 2017/18 budget estimates for his ministry where he requested parliament to approve a total of 4,516,883,061,000/-. Of this, 1,929,705,714,000/- is for the ministry’s infrastructure department, 2,569,073,208,000/- for the transport section, and 18,104,139,000/- for the communication department.
Meanwhile, according to Mbarawa, during 2016/2017 the government took big steps in connecting villages in the country with mobile phone networks.
He said as at present, a total of 382 out of 443 wards with 1,825 villages have been connected, and called on all service providers who have not fulfilled their obligations towards this end to do so as soon as possible.
The minister said the government will continue with plans to improve all airports in the country, stating that a total of 5.5 billion/- has been budgeted for the construction of Msalato Airport in Dodoma.
At least 3.5bn/- of this amount will come from government coffers, while the remaining 2bn/- is to be4 provided by the African Development Bank (AfDB), he explained.
On the budget estimates for the transport department, he said this has been divided into 91,142,025,000/- for recurrent expenditure and 2,477,931,183,000/- for development spending.
The department will, among other things, oversee the recently-launched standard gauge railway line project from Dar es Salaam to Dodoma, for which a total of 900bn/- has been allocated in the next financial year, the minister said.