The Malawi Government contributed K600 million in the 2011/12 development budget for the construction of the Bingu wa Mutharika International Conference Centre (BMICC), according to director of tourism Isaac Katopola.
Katopola, responding to an emailed questionnaire last week on the 2011/12 budget allocations to the Department of Tourism, said government in the financial year had prioritised the construction of the BMICC and, consequently, suspended the construction of cultural villages and access roads to resort areas.
â€œThe total budget of the BMICC under the development budget in 2011/12 [financial year] was K600 million, which was essentially a contribution by the Malawi Government. According to the project agreement document, the money was for lease of land, water connections and supply, electrical components supplies and connections, landscaping costs, irrigation systems and fence construction,â€ said Katopola.
Government, on one hand, borrowed $95 million (K30 billion) from the Peopleâ€™s Republic of China to build the BMICC, the Presidential Hotel and the Presidential Villas under a loan agreement payable in 30 years, he said.
On the other hand, government contributed K80 million to the BMICC in the 2010/11 budget apart from the K600 million contributed in the 2011/12 budget, according to budget documents.
Katopola emphasised that there were no allocations for access roads and construction of cultural villages in the 2011/12 financial year. However, there is an allocation in the current financial year.
â€œThe financing of access roads and cultural villages were suspended for the whole of 2011/12 financial year by government because financial resources were prioritised towards the BMICC, Presidential Hotel and Presidential Villas.
â€œIn the current 2012/13 budget, however, government approved K200 million for access roads and K118 million [for cultural villages],â€ he said.
According to budget documents, government allocated K60 million for the cultural villages and K200 million for the improvement of access roads in the 2010/11 financial year.
The Department of Tourism said the project to develop access roads to resort areas, which started in 2004, was meant to improve quality of product offer, visitor experience and satisfaction by improving access to the leading resort tourism enterprises.
Since the project started, the Department of Tourism, with technical assistance from the Roads Authority (RA), has upgraded some poor access roads to bitumen standard.
But Katopola said government constructed 2.1 kilometres of tarmac access road from Mulunguzi Dam leading to Ku Chawe Inn in Zomba, 5.1 km of tarmac access roads in Mangochi leading to Sun â€˜nâ€™ Sand Holiday Resort, Club Makokola, Sunbird Nkopola, Mulangeni Holiday Resort and Mpale Cultural Village.
The Ministry of Tourism also expects the RA to hand over 3.1 km concrete access roads at Nkhata Bay Boma leading to Mayoka Village, Butterfly Lodge, Chikale Lodge, Key Lounge and Njaya Lodge.
On cultural villages, Katopola pointed out that construction of Mpale Cultural Village was completed and that the management of the cultural resort was awarded to Malawi Catering Services Limited who are providing Yao cultural experiences and general hospitality services.
â€œMpale Cultural Village has generally been successful, but there is need to promote it more on what it offers to the public and to international tourists. There is also need to research on the Yao culture to provide more unique and authentic culture to tourists.
â€œThere are plans to start with preliminaries to conceptualise and develop another cultural village for the Chewa in the Central Region subject to the availability of resources in this financial year,â€ he added.