Despite mixed reactions, parliament convincingly acknowledged the Kasane airport project loan authorisation bill presented by Minister of Finance, Kenneth Matambo, arguing the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa loan initiative would bolster the tourism sector and create opportunities for locals.
Contributing to the bill Friday, the assistant Minister of Agriculture, Oreeditse Molebatsi, whilst recognising the noble development pivoting around the document, expressed deep concern over government inability to plan for long and sustainable projects, insisting the envisaged airport expansion was small and inadequate to demand further renovations and expansion in the near future.
“We have seen and experienced this before. Even now I could see the minister coming running to this House to present a similar bill for the renovations and expansion of the same project which could have been avoided should we have planned for a bigger airport,” Molebatsi said.
Whilst vehemently concurring with the sentiments expressed by Molebatsi, Lobatse independent MP Nehemiah Modubule would center his argument over the conditions of the loan, citing the previous China loans acquired in a similar fashion which would later trigger confusion and chaos, with the Chinese demanding their companies to be afforded priority at the expense of Batswana contractors.
“We do not want to fall in the same trap. The minister should explicitly inform this House about some of these conditions because there are important,” demanded Modubule.
For his part, Molepolole South MP Daniel Kwelagobe countered the reservations expressed by the duo, arguing that for more than forty years government plans have served this country right, erecting small projects against limited funds and later renovating and expanding such facilities, citing the parliament and Gaborone buildings.
“We would have become a laughing stock should we have built a large parliament ,” argued Kwelagobe, the long serving MP who has served in most cabinet posts, referring to the early post independence parliamentary house.
Estimated at P54 200 542, the BADEA loan supplements the OPEC fund for International Development loan estimated at P67 750 678, which was approved by the House last year June.
The whole project is estimated at P180 000 000, with the government footing the balance.
Earlier, presenting the bill Matambo indicated the airport would generate much to the country, citing the landing/taking off of the aircraft such as Boeing 737 or equivalent class giving a much needed boost to this tourism destination-Kasane.
Besides generating income from landing fees, parking fees, passenger charges, rental of commercial area and hangar facilities, other benefits include reduction in delays in landing and take-off, handling passengers, handling baggage, improved handling of freight and reduction in the possibility of smuggling of goods as well as an increase in foreign currency earnings.
The airport will also serve as an air transport conduit for agricultural produce from the Pandamatenga commercial farming area, including the proposed Zambezi agro-commercial development project.
In addition the BADEA loan will part finance civil works, provision of one fire fighting truck and maintenance equipment for runaway and taxiway.
The terms of the loan include a repayment of 15 years, a grace period of 3 years and an interest rate of 3 percent per annum.
“The grant of the loan is 51 percent which indicates that the loan is concessional as it exceeds the international minimum criterion of 25 percent. This means that the cost of the loan and the fact that it is long term make it attractive,” Matambo revealed.
Currently the airport is designed with detailed designs expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2010. Thereafter the preparation of tender dossier would be undertaken and completed by the second quarter of 2010 which would be followed by the invitation to tender and subsequently the tender evaluation process.
The development partners will then have to approve the tender evaluation report and eventually the recommended contractor and supervision. The construction phase of the project will commence after all conditions precedent have been fulfilled which will likely take to the financial year 2011/2012.
The debate continues Monday ÔÇô the day when the bill is expected to pass.