Government speaks out on TRL woes THIS DAY ADDING to the woes and worries of employees of Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL), the government has admitted that the company faces a serious predicament. Government intends to make a formal statement on its stand regarding the situation of TRL during the ongoing parliamentary session, Infrastructure Development Deputy Minister Hezekiah Chibulunje told THISDAY yesterday. According to Chibulunje, the government was quite perplexed as to what was really happening after extending a 4bn/- bailout to the company. Analysts see it as a classic case of privatization gone awry because the foreign investors, currently running the erstwhile giant public utility, have failed to pay the October 2008 wages to their workers. The failure comes on the heels of criticism by the railway workers that RITES, an Indian firm that is operating TRL on lease from the government since last year has not made appreciable investment in the venture. Under its long-term contract with the government, RITES undertook to manage the TRL network and a workforce of some 3,500. The government privatized the network hoping to attract substantial capital investment in order to improve public transport and haulage of cargo. Industry sources indicated that the TRL management was not prepared to pay the minimum wage of 200,000/- that was recently agreed with the workers' trade union until the government chipped in. It is understood that the foreign investors were willing to foot just 60 per cent of the wage bill if the government would pay the balance. This means TRL wants the government to top up 80,000/- for every 120,000/- minimum wage it is supposed to pay the railway staff. ''This company (TRL) is putting the government in a dilemma by failing to pay the full amount of minimum wage. Instead, it is continually seeking support from the government to top up the remaining 80,000/-,'' Chibulunje explained. Though not publicly stated yet, sources indicated that government opinion was that the foreign investor falls short on seriousness and commitment to invest in the railway network. TRL started paying the new minimum wage this year after a protracted dispute that led its workers to down tools until the government released 4bn/- to prop up the management in meeting its wage commitments. ''The government is borrowing money from various sources to financially support a foreign management team. Why shouldn't the so-called investors meet their own costs for running the railway?'' queried one senior government official. Since RITES is a major shareholder (with a 51 per cent stake in TRL) and the remaining shares held by the Tanzanian government, it has the responsibility of raising the necessary working capital on its own. On the salary delays, TRL Managing Director Narsimhaswami Jayaram, told THISDAY that the company's management was waiting for additional funding from the government to foot the wage bill for October 2008. ''It is no more our issue ... the (Tanzanian) government is supposed to top up the remaining amount for salaries,'' he said. Meanwhile, Tanzania Railway Workers Union (TRAWU) Secretary-General, Sylvester Rwegasira, confirmed that TRL workers were yet to be paid last month's wages because the management was unable to pay the new minimum wage. ''The TRL management explicitly told us that they can pay a minimum wage of only 120,000/- and the remaining amount should be paid by the government. ''We have asked our members to remain calm while their salaries are being processed by both TRL and the government,'' Rwegasira added. RITES of India entered into a 25-year contract with the Tanzanian government to lease the 2,700 kilometres railway network from 1 October 2007. The World Bank had released $33m for the rehabilitation of 90 locomotives, 1,280 freight wagons and 100 passenger coaches and upgrading the rail track. It also funded the privatization process. Since the Indian firm took over the TRL management, passengers have been complaining about the poor service it renders.