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We are insolvent: Caaz boss

Shame Makoshori

THE Civil Aviation Authority (CAAZ) this week said it has been driven into insolvency by ballooning foreign debts that chief executive officer David Chao

ta blamed on government’s reluctance to settle.

At a pre-budget seminar in Harare on Wednesday, Chaota said some of the debt has accrued from the 1980s and was complicating operations due to threats that CAAZ assets might be confisticated by angry international creditors.

He pleaded with the Ministry of Finance to provide funds to pay off the foreign debt in the 2007 budget scheduled for end of November.

CAAZ has been living under threats of international lawsuits and has been hesitant to open accounts with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) amid fears that the money could be garnished, Chaota said.

“If you look at our balance sheet you will see that we are technically insolvent because of the debts,” Chaota said.

“We cannot open accounts with IATA because the money would be garnished. In 2004 we were sued by various international creditors because of these debts,” Chaota said.

CAAZ, like many other state enterprises, have been badly let down by poor budgetary allocations and the tendency by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono to initiate expansion
projects that he later reneges on, he said.

He chronicled how Gono recently released $630 million for one of CAAZ’s projects but immediately blocked access to the funds without explanations.

Buffalo Range Airport was allocated $8 million in the 2006 budget for expansion when costs for plans alone required $550 million.

CAAZ is carrying out multibillion dollar expansion and refurbishment programmes at Harare International Airport, and Joshua Nkomo and Victoria Falls International Airports.

The projects have been delayed on several occasions due to the lack of funding.

Expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport, which was originally scheduled to be completed by the end of 2006, has just started.

Meanwhile tourism industry players at the pre-budget seminar expressed impatience at government’s delays in privatising parastatals that have been feeding on government subsidies for a long time.

Last year Finance minister Herbert Murerwa promised to privatise six parastatals to wean them from state influence and return them to viability but two months before the end of 2007, none have been weaned off.

It will be embarrassing that the minister will come back to the people with the 2007 budget without accomplishing the promises he made last year,” queried Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive officer Karikoga Kaseke, but Ministry of Finance officials present at the meeting boasted that Murerwa will not run short of words.

“He will not run short of words, he will tell the nation something else this time around,” they said.

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