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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Tanzania defends presidential jet plans
Dar Es Salaam International Airport
Tanzania's aviation facilities are again under scrutiny
The Tanzanian Government has defended its plans to buy a controversial jet for its president.


The fact that we have been forgiven our debts does not mean that our president has to use the donkey

Basil Mramba Finance Minister
Speaking to the BBC's Swahili section, Finance Minister Basil Mramba said his government was following proper procedures in the purchase of the jet and denied reports that it had already placed the order.

His remarks come in the wake of reports that the World Bank has asked Tanzania for an explanation after it failed to consult the financial body about the purchase - as required for all major expenditure under the terms of a structural adjustment programme.

The government decision also coincides with the resumption of Britain's aid to Tanzania, suspended a few months ago over the purchase by the Tanzania authorities of a controversial $44m military air traffic control system.

Parliament

"The decision to buy the jet has not been taken," Mr Mramba said.

"We are seeking the parliament's approval before we start shopping for the jet."

He also disputed the 14m ($22m) figure quoted as the price for the jet, saying his government has estimated the cost to be "less than 7m and could even be less than that."

President Benjamin Mkapa
Authorities say parliament will have final say on president's jet

According to press reports, the World Bank is "infuriated" by the news of the order.

Bank officials are said to have asked Tanzania why it was buying the jet for the president when he already has one to take him between the main city, Dar es Salaam, and the new capital, Dodoma.

But Mr Mramba did not address the question of whether the World Bank had asked for an explanation and whether the Bank was entitled to do so.

"The fact that we have been forgiven our debts does not mean that our president has to use the donkey as a means of travel.

"Does this also mean we can't buy clothes and therefore walk naked?"

Under pressure

The British Government said it was aware of the plans before it decide to resume its 40m annual aid to Tanzania but assumed it had World Bank approval.

But Mr Mramba insisted that British International Development Secretary, Clare Short was not consulted about the issue.

Clare Short
Tanzania deny that Ms Short knew of the jet order

"Clare Short did not have any reason to enquire about the purchase," Mr Mramba said.

"If so, why didn't she ask about other items like cars which we buy every day."

Ms Short is now under pressure to get guarantees that the aid will be spent, as agreed, on health, education and agriculture projects.

The opposition in Britain has criticised the Tanzanian Government for ordering the aircraft.

The Liberal Democrat deputy international development spokesman, Norman Lamb, said he was "extremely concerned" about the proposed purchase.

In Tanzania itself, the opposition has been equally critical.

Professor Ibrahim Lipumba, the leader of the Civic United Front, has said that the government had repeated the same mistake, that it was still failing to consult the parliament and the people of Tanzania.


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22 Jul 02 | Africa
03 Jul 02 | Business
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24 Dec 01 | Politics
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