(eTN) – Air Tanzania (ATCL) has finally received a new AOC – Air Operator’s Certification – from the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority, after the previous permit had lapsed following the suspension and halt of all operations early this year. This opens the way for the airline to resume operations with their single turboprop aircraft on their “fleet of one,” a Bombardier Q300, which only last month returned from South Africa. The aircraft had been held in lieu of payment after heavy maintenance when ATCL failed to pay the bills, until the Tanzanian government used money needed elsewhere for social and other services to bail out the airline once again.
This has prompted quite a debate behind the scenes, when aviation analysts and observers accused the government in Dar es Salaam of “market intervention and attempting to tilt the scales in favor of a failed state enterprise” as one regular source put it to this correspondent. “The market principles in the East African Community are now that the private sector should shoulder its fair share of responsibilities in the economic development of the region. This also means that market mechanisms like supply and demand should be allowed to play out and the market to find its level.
“In Tanzania, we have private airlines which survive by being prudent and financially responsible, and they operate with the potential of failure if the market has a downturn. When one looks at Precision Air, and the public statements by government officials praising private enterprise and entrepreneurs, when it comes to Air Tanzania it seem to be all empty hogwash and lies, because they are doing all they can to prop up a failed airline, keep bailing them out when private companies, if they were run so incompetently, would long have gone bankrupt. This is unfair competition using public funds, which are better used and more needed in other sectors.”
Another source, close to Precision Air, would not be drawn into this discussion though, saying the company needed to concentrate on the IPO now finally underway and entering its second week although yet others speculated intensely on the timing the government had chosen to announce that they would settle all of ATCL’s debts and continue to seek investors at precisely this moment when the Precision Air IPO was ongoing.
“This is pure malice and ill intent as has always been the case here. They timed the announcement to spoil the IPO and unsettle the market. Remember the failed taxiway completion to the Precision hangar, the delays to give them self handling, the haggle over route rights and designations on planned routes? Air Tanzania cannot perform and yet government keeps protecting them. Do they live in the past? Do they not see that Precision is carrying our flag better than Air Tanzania ever did before? Let them stop wasting our taxpayers’ money in ATCL,” another regular aviation source from Arusha added to the discussion.