Dodoma. Members of Parliament yesterday endorsed the upgrading of Biharamulo, Burigi, Kimisi, Ibanda and Rumanyika from game reserves to national parks.
Section 3 of The National Parks Act, No. 282 gives the President the powers to upgrade a game reserve into a national park provided the decision is endorsed by the National Assembly.
However, a section of lawmakers punched holes on the proposal on the grounds that it would add a burden to the Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa).
Iringa Urban lawmaker Peter Msigwa (Chadema) lamented that only five out of the 16 national parks were operating profitably, warning that bringing Tanapa with another task would mean a burden and hence inefficiency. “We need to be consistent in our decisions. With this new move, I fear that the initiatives to boost tourism in the southern circuit would be in vain,” warned Rev Msigwa.
He said the southern circuit was yet to takeoff in the face of infrastructure, hospitality and customer care, just to mention a few.
His sentiments were echoed by Vunjo lawmaker James Mbatia (NCCR-Mageuzi), who said the government’s idea to upgrade the said game reserves was good but suggesting for massive investments in the areas.
“We need sound infrastructure and good hotels. In so doing we will be able to even double the contribution of tourism to GDP (grosss domestic product),” argued Mr Mbatia. National Assembly Speaker Job Ndugai called for the need to reconsider the taxes, which Tanapa is subjected to.
He said, Tanapa was obliged by law to pay 30 per cent in corporate tax, 15 per cent of its gross income to Treasury, six per cent for research and training and 3 per cent in tourist and development levy.
He also said he was not sure if Tanapa was assured of tax exemption on equipment as per agreement with the government.
“The Ministry of Finance should consider to reduce the burden that Tanapa is currently shouldering,” opined Mr Ndugai.
Natural Resources and Tourism minister Hamis Kigwangalla allayed fears on the upgrading game reserves, saying they would not affect the government’s efforts in promoting the southern circuit.
“It is true that the new plans add yet another burden to Tanapa, but, I can assure you, our plans in promoting tourist attractions would not be affected in any way,” he countered.
Finance and Planning minister Philip Mpango said the government will in the next budget (2019/20) consider revising tax challenges that Tanapa was facing.