National Airline Revival Not A Priority – Finance Minister

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In short
After a meeting between President Museveni and the Aga Khan in Paris, in December 2013, a press statement from State House indicated that the two had agreed that government buys a stake in the Air Uganda. Air Uganda is part of Celestair Group owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED). Prior to that, media reports had also indicated that cabinet had resolved to buy shares in Air Uganda instead of reviving Uganda Airlines.

Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka has today revealed that there has been no decision by government to revive Uganda Airlines or even buy shares in the Aga Khan owned Air Uganda.
 
The talk of reviving the national airline has been going on for the last 18months, but more recently the government appeared to have reached a decision. This however, has not been the case, going by the words of the finance minister. Kiwanuka said that despite government prioritizing transport infrastructure, the aviation is at the bottom of the pile.

//Cue in: “The areas of focus…
Cue out: …instead of by road.”//

After a meeting between President Yoweri Museveni and the Aga Khan in Paris, in December 2013, a press statement from State House indicated that the two had agreed that government buys a stake in the Air Uganda. Air Uganda is part of Celestair Group, owned by the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED). Prior to that, media reports had also indicated that cabinet had resolved to buy shares in Air Uganda instead of reviving Uganda Airlines. This was apparently based on a report presented to cabinet by a technical team set-up to find the best viable option. In the resolutions made by cabinet, presented today at a press briefing by Rose Namayanja, the Information Minister, there was no mention of this decision - further escalating the speculation.

Uganda Airlines collapsed in 2001 as a result of mismanagement and debts among others. Those in support of the revival take note that it is an option for marketing Uganda. Kiwanuka disagrees with this reasoning.

//Cue in: “When it comes…
Cue out: …is my minimum.”//

She also added that she was yet to receive official communication on the way forward for the said decision on buying shares in Air Uganda. Kiwanuka said this on the sidelines of the National Budget Conference to review the current performance of the 2013/14 budget and the priority areas for the next budget 2014/15. If the airline were to be revived, conservative estimates place it at about 400 million US dollars. Buying shares in Air Uganda would also come at a cost considering that it is airline that has been growing since it was established in May 2007. The Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development would then have the responsibility of finding the source for this money, either from the consolidated fund or borrowing.  
 
With demands from teachers, doctors, nurses, roads sector and other infrastructure, the airline debate is most likely to go on for now. Last week, the Gulu Airport was upgraded from an airstrip after Shillings 10 billion was spent on a 3.1km runway. The ministry of transport is now seeking over 400 million US dollars to upgrade the infrastructure - including a lounge - at the new airport.