Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Business Chronicle - Pros­per Ndlovu re­cently in Victoria Falls

AIR trans­port pas­sen­gers should brace for an in­crease in de­par­ture fees ef­fec­tive Jan­uary 2017 as the Gov­ern­ment seeks al­ter­na­tive fund­ing to de­velop avi­a­tion in­fra­struc­ture in the coun­try, a Cabi­net Min­is­ter said.

With Zim­babwe viewed as a high cost coun­try in terms of do­ing busi­ness, eco­nomic ob­servers say the move might have a neg­a­tive ef­fect on prospects of in­creased tourist ar­rivals.

Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Dr Jo­ram Gumbo an­nounced the pro­posal to in­crease de­par­ture levy on Fri­day dur­ing the com­mis­sion­ing of the new look Victoria Falls In­ter­na­tional Air­port by Pres­i­dent Mu­gabe.

“Due to bud­get con­straints, my min­istry is purs­ing al­ter­nat­ing and in­no­va­tive fund­ing modal­i­ties to en­sure that our plans come to re­al­ity. It is in this con­text that I ap­peal to air trans­port trav­ellers to ex­pect a very mod­est in­crease on the air­port de­par­ture tax start­ing Jan­uary 1, 2017 that is very good in­deed; we need the fund to keep up this mo­men­tum,” said Dr Gumbo.

Cur­rently the pas­sen­ger ser­vice charge is pegged at $10 for do­mes­tic de­par­ture and $35 for in­ter­na­tional de­par­ture pas­sen­gers. Another charge, the Avi­a­tion In­fra­struc­ture De­vel­op­ment Fund (AIDEF) is pegged at $5 for do­mes­tic de­par­ture and $15 for in­ter­na­tional de­par­ture. In to­tal do­mes­tic pas­sen­gers pay $15 with in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers part­ing with $50. Air trans­port fees were in­tro­duced in 2014 when trav­ellers were re­quired to pay tax di­rectly to the Civil Avi­a­tion Author­ity of Zim­babwe (CAAZ) at its of­fices in Harare, Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, Victoria Falls and Kariba Air­ports.

Sur­veys have shown that nu­mer­ous reg­u­la­tory costs and taxes were hav­ing a crip­pling ef­fect on busi­nesses with ex­perts call­ing for re­duc­tion of such costs to pro­mote growth.

Dr Gumbo said his min­istry was work­ing on its air­port de­vel­op­ment master plan, which he said would be shared with the rest of Gov­ern­ment soon.

“We re­main con­scious of the need for us to ful­fil our role as the fa­cil­i­ta­tor and en­abler and pledge to ex­e­cute that man­date to the best of our abil­ity,” he said.

The min­is­ter said the com­mis­sion­ing of the Victoria Falls In­ter­na­tional Air­port was one of the an­chor projects un­der the in­fra­struc­ture and util­i­ties clus­ter of ZimAs­set.

The scope of the work car­ried out in­cluded a 4km run way, new in­ter­na­tional ter­mi­nal build­ing, fire sta­tion, con­trol tower, in­stal­la­tion of state-of-the-art spe­cialised avi­a­tion equip­ment and up­grad­ing of cur­rent the old air­port wing into a do­mes­tic ter­mi­nal wing. Dr Gumbo said the con­trac­tor, China Jiangsu In­ter­na­tional, did a com­mend­able job of con­struct­ing “this el­e­gant and im­pos­ing struc­ture that meets in­ter­na­tional stan­dards”.

He said Zim­babwe was proud of this ac­com­plish­ment and paid trib­ute to China, which availed the $150 mil­lion con­ces­sion­ary loan to the coun­try for the project.

Dr Gumbo said the strate­gic plan for his min­istry for the pe­riod 2014 to 2018 puts the avi­a­tion sec­tor as a pri­or­ity in line with ZimAs­set tar­gets.

He also paid trib­ute to his pre­de­ces­sors Dr Obert Mpofu and Ni­cholas Goche for their con­tri­bu­tion in the ini­tial stages of the project.

The Victoria Falls In­ter­na­tional Air­port is the third to be com­mis­sioned within the Zim-As­set pro­gramme, af­ter JMN Nkomo for Mata­bele­land re­gion. JMN was com­mis­sioned on De­cem­ber 22, 2013 and was fol­lowed by Buf­falo Range Air­port on Novem­ber 27, 2015 fol­low­ing sup­port re­ceived from Ton­gaat Hulett and Malilangwe Trust.

Dr Jo­ram Gumbo

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