Whither Murehwa Airport? : Dissenting Matigari opinion

Ok, so lets explore the idea of the TOMATO AIRPORT a bit more, shall we? Some say, aah, y don’t u improve on Chamisa’s idea. So lets explore

First, infrastructure investment is capital intensive. Bcoz resources are scarce, one choice u make deprives the alternative. This is cold opportunity cost. If you build an airport, the cost is a hospital or a school that cld be built using same resources.

Second, contemporary policy making must be fact-based and solutions-oriented. It must be informed by facts. An infrastructure proposal must be a solution to a burning problem. If u just build an airport for its own sake, its a solution looking for a problem.

Where politicians spend &on infrastructure solutions not informed by solutions, you end up having white elephants. Here is a typical example. Zimbabwe gvt build the Aquatic Complex in Chitungwiza during All Africa Games in 1995. Since then, its now a place for Sungura music

Politicians run white elephants everywhere, especially for political gain. But its really wasteful expenditure – resources not used efficiently. In the US, these are termed PORK-BARREL projects

In 2008, I campaigned for MDC, much to my detriment when the junta started operation makavhotera papi. I shan’t name the person who came after me to avoid discomfort for Wamba, but I went to US, & was a volunteer on Obama’s campaign & encountered a pork barrel project

The pork barrel project was used to derail McCain’s campaign when he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Palin had supported building of the Gravina Island Bridge in Alaska, which during the campaign became pejoratively known as the BRIDGE TO NOWHERE. It was deemed wasteful

Now – construction of airports, intended not be to white elephants is both an art & a science. Science is an strong part of airport projects. It involves ECONOMICS (social science), ENGINEERING, OPERATIONS RESEARCH, LOGISTICS MANAGEMENT and many other dynamics

As I said, first QN shld be – what problem are we trying to solve? If that problem requires an airport, then we explore the Cost Benefit Analysis of making that investment. If Benefit<Cost, then its not worth it!

The economics of airports is an entire science & branch resources management. This started in 1978 thru skies liberalisation, starting in US. A list has been doing the rounds of Rhodesian airports. Our infrastructure decayed under ZANU, but some decline is due this dynamic

Prior to open skies revolution, airports were built by states for its own airlines/aircraft. This transformed airports from being necessary state infrastructure to service entities that actually go out there looking for business. For this reason, there must be a business case

The science of airports relate to operations research – an area that relates to computation of efficiencies, networks &connections of nodes. Very important is the hub & spoke concept. This concept is very important for airlines. Most MBAs wld hv encountered OPS RESEARCH

Many airlines fail to turn a profit. Some run huge losses requiring taxpayer subsidies. So they choose least cost & efficient routes. Large aircraft usually pick their load from hubs that are fed cargo or passengers from spoke nodes. This is essential for airport economics

Building Airports is very tricky bcoz once built, u can’t use it for much else. U can’t use the runway for anything else. Its very important to hv larger than break-even traffic traffic volume to sustain the airport. Anything less than BreakEven will be taxpayer funded.

So lets go to the economics of building the Murehwa Airport! Wamba suggested it be used for cargo, carrying vegetables from that area or processed green produce. Wamagaisa suggested earlier it could be used to carry granite stones. This matters not when its done

(i)Carrying granite with a cargo plane doesn’t work! Thats a no. (ii) Once vegetables r industrial processed, eg, thru canning as suggested by Wamba, they cease to b perishables. They get long shelf life & need not b flown out quickly (iii) That leaves us with green veges

It is true that airstrips are found in a lot of commercial farms, private schools & so forth. But an airstrip isn’t an airport. No construction is needed for airstrips, just leveling the hard ground, clearing & marking it. Its also not necessary for the government 2 b involved

So even a dirty dust road can be easily converted into an airstrip. So to be clear, Wamba spoke of an airport, otherwise the government need not be involved.

Others say, aah, vegetables need not be flown from Harare, they can be flown from Murehwa to Intl mkts – you need a real airport to do that. That said, you won’t be flying a small Cessna, its gotta a long haul aircraft (mid range or wide bodied).

The point therefore is: Murehwa is 91km from Harare. Why have an airport there just to carry vegetables to an international destination. What kinda of capacity do the farmers have there to sustain several planes landing there daily? Without that it will be a white elephant

It must be understood that the farming in Murehwa is rural “magadheni” kinda subsistance farming. Its not commercial style farming. What these farmers need, instead of an airport, is ideas on how to capacitate them to do commercial farming, mindful that Zim is importing veges

True, there r exports of vegetables to outside markets. Kondozi did this well, so did Rolex, Mitchell & Mitchell yana Edwin Moyo. But these guys, who do commercial scale production & don’t need airports, they truck their stuff to Hre Airport. It makes economic sense to do so

I used to meet many of these exporters, they had regular meetings in Highlands at the Horticulture Promotion Council – then led by Basilio Sandamu. The only sensible need for an airport for vegetables is to solve the perishability problem of vegetables.

That problem doesnt arise if an airport is 90km away. It can only arise if there is too much traffic at the airport. I hv bn to far too busy airports where aircraft queue like kombis to take off – Amsterdam, NY, Narita, Beijing, Hongkong, Changi etc. Zim is far from this

So the challenge for Chamisa is: how do we help rural subsistence “garden” farmers commercialise their farming. What are his ideas to deal with this? How does he build their capacity? Canning – good idea, but we have heard it b4. Lack of an airport is not their problem!

The airport idea’s a Cinderella pork barrel idea that makes no economic sense even when Biti grows the economy by his percentages (which r not adding up). Chamisa has a unique chance to go to these rural areas to (i) indentify real problems & (ii) say how he’ll tackle them

Pork barrel projects are wasteful spending. My biggest concern with the MDC message is: r they fiscally conservative, or reckless big spenders chasing every bridge-to-nowhere? Money does not grow on trees. How do we reconcile Chamisa’s projects with Biti’s eat what we kill?

BTW, the EU – Netherlands, etc don’t just get any sort of vegetables form any1 and every1. They hv certain standards that must b met. Before u build an airport, you empower yo farmers in Murehwa to start production to those standards. Dutch Embassy provides such training

You can argue that the airport cld be built using PPP – but PPPs only work where the CBA makes sense. In this case it won’t add up. Reckless spending is bad for future generations, the same way ZANU left us indebted, & our kids hv to pay the debt up! {fin}

Source: https://twitter.com/matigary

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