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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 15:19 GMT
Mixed signals for Tanzania's radar
Dar es Salaam International Airport
Tanzania's main airport may benefit from the deal
By Christine Otieno in Dar es Salaam

With the UK's decision to go ahead with the sale of a $40m air traffic control system to Tanzania, the government here announced its "delight and happiness" at the news.

The move to sell the British-made system to one the world's poorest countries has sparked cabinet rows in the UK.


When two jumbo jets crash over Tanzania, will people accept the need for us to have a radar system?

Jakaya Kikwete
Foreign Minister
For the most part, Tanzanians are unaware of the row raging in the UK and the news has only just started to seep into the local media.

Those who know about the deal have mixed feelings on whether or not Tanzania should be buying the equipment.

One young student in Dar es Salaam was livid.

"It is a shame we need the foreign press to tell us what is happening in our country. Can't the money be used on education or health? Look at the state of our roads. Personally I am outraged."

Crash

The opposition is also upset.

Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, Chairman of the opposition Civic United Front says the deal has been shrouded in secrecy.


Tanzania is a sovereign country and surely should be able to decide what to do with its loans

Rebecca Muna
Debt campaigner

But the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Jakaya Kikwete, rejects such arguments.

"People say we do not need this system, what are they waiting for? When two jumbo jets crash over Tanzania, will people accept the need for us to have a radar system? This problem is real not fiction," he says.

As a country that has been classified, by the World Bank and the IMF, as being a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Tanzania qualified for a $3bn debt relief fund only last month.

'Sovereign'

Critics within the World Bank have questioned the government's decision to spend such a large amount of money given their HIPC status.

But Rebecca Muna, a local campaigner for debt relief, believes Tanzania should be left to make its own decisions.

Tanzania President Benjamin Mkapa
Mkapa's government is 'happy and delighted'

"For a long time the World Bank has been thinking they are prefects who can tell countries what to do and what not to do. Tanzania is a sovereign country and surely should be able to decide what to do with its loans."

The foreign minister emphasised not just the government's delight at the new system but also the need for new revenue.

The new system will enable Tanzania to track foreign craft flying over its airspace and consequently collect tax from them, he says.

"We are looking at an increased revenue of $2-5m a year. People are only talking of the $40m that we will spend purchasing the system but what about the revenue it generate?" says Mr Kikwete.

See also:

19 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Tanzania row escalates
19 Nov 01 | Business
Terror attacks 'will worsen' poverty
11 Sep 01 | Business
World Bank pushes anti-poverty drive
20 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Modernising Africa's skies
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