'Govt won't fund UNWTO preps'

HARARE - Zimbabwe's preparations to host the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) assembly could be in shambles following revelations that government will not release funds towards the exercise.

Finance minister Tendai Biti — who had earlier promised to allocate $6 million to finance the preparations — said government had other competing needs such as the elections and referendum.

“If we cannot fund an election, what more a hotel?” questioned Biti.

“In terms of legacy infrastructure, the government cannot do it but the private sector can,” he said, adding “We are on course for hosting the event.”

This comes as Tourism minister Walter Mzembi has sought President Robert Mugabe’s intervention in accessing the fiscal support.

Recently, Mzembi said the country required $90 million to successfully host the UNWTO event.

“Thirty million dollars would be earmarked for infrastructure development, while another $30 million would be for retooling and re-kitting the tourism sector. The other $30 million would be allocated for servicing the Victoria Falls airport to meet international standards,” he said.

The Treasury funds were expected to complement injections from corporates and developmental banks.

Zimbabwe is co-hosting the event with Zambia, whose government has already allocated $20 million to fund preparations.

The conference, to be held in Victoria Falls resort town from August 21 to 28, is anticipated to attract approximately 5 000 visitors.

Biti said the forthcoming referendum and elections were of priority.

Zimbabwe is set to hold a watershed election this year and the cash-strapped government has been scrounging for money to fund the exercise.

“There are about four things that are required for the successful hosting of the event and most of those are in place,” Biti said adding that hospitality group, African Sun has facilities which can be put up easily in the bush and accommodate 2 000 people at no cost.

Biti said African Sun applied for a $6 million loan from South African-based Industrial Development Corporation to build additional conference accommodation to cater for 3 000 visitors.

“Our role as government is to ensure there is a guarantee to the loan and it came from one of our local banks,” he said.

“We have also disbursed $7,9 million for the laying of the fibre optic link from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls, a move that is set to improve connectivity to the resort town.”

Connection of the Victoria Falls cable would be linked to the West African Cable System to bring in more international broadband capacity and also offer diversity routing of international traffic.

Biti said apart from funds that will be unveiled for the rehabilitation and expansion project of the Victoria Falls International Airport, Treasury will be releasing $750 000 for the extensive publicity of the conference.

The airport project entails the construction of a 4 000m runway, a control tower, new terminal building and inside road network, car parks as well as the rehabilitation of the present runway. - John Kachembere

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.