The Minister of Works and Transport Lesego Motsumi has confirmed that the government is going to spend P100 million on recapitalizing the national airline to improve its performance and make it ready for privatisation.
This follows the collapse of privatisation talks between government and South African Airlink two months ago.
"The government remains concerned that the coverage and quality of air transport services are less than (what) we require," Motsumi said in Parliamnet yesterday. "Better air transport services are vital for economic diversification and employment creation, particularly in the tourism sector."
Motsumi revealed that government has decided to recruit an experienced airline operator to run Air Botswana on a management contract for two to three years.
The company, which is expected to commence work in April 2008, will be responsible for revitalisation and restructuring of the airline and preparing it for eventual privatisation.
Government intends to renew the aircraft fleet with replacement BAe 146 jets obtained on short-term leases pending a review of fleet requirements by the management company.
"In addition, Air Botswana's ATR turboprop aircraft require major overhaul in order to ensure their continuing safety, reliability and efficiency. Other cost items that may be included in the recapitalisation package include the voluntary exit scheme, pilot remuneration and
She added that the airline has been facing a problem of pilots resigning to take up better-paying positions abroad. "As of the beginning of last week, Air Botswana had only seven sets of crew, compared with at least 13 sets two years ago. Pilot attrition is therefore a serious threat that needs to be addressed.
"The main solution will be to make the pilots' remuneration more internationally competitive," she said. The pilots have already been moved to the top of their salary bands and their salaries will be topped up at the beginning of the management contract.
In the meantime, government will review the Air Botswana Transition Act and the Civil Aviation Regulation Reform Act with a view to determining whether they remain relevant or should be considered for amendment or repeal.
"My ministry also plans to review the question of (the) liberalisation of air transport services, including the appropriateness of Air Botswana's current monopoly which prevents other Botswana carriers from offering scheduled services," Motsumi said.