Falcon to cost N$180m less then originally expected

THE new presidential Falcon 7X will cost Namibian tax payers nearly N$180 million less than the N$600 million that was originally budgetted to be spent on the aircraft. The “saving” is due largely to the favourable exchange rate between the Namibia Dollar and US Dollar.

The latest development on the purchase of the plane follows a stopover of a Falcon 7X at Windhoek’s Eros Airport about a week ago where Works and Transport Minister Erkki Nghimtina, his Deputy Chief Samuel Ankama, as well as technical staff from the Ministry were given an opportunity to view the executive jet, which has been quoted for an amount of US$51 million for the Namibian Government.

“There was an air show in Cape Town and before they returned to Europe, the company (representatives) made a stopover in Namibia so that we could see the Falcon. The delivery date of the new presidential plane is September next year,” Nghimtina said. At the beginning of the negotiations in 2008 with the French Dassault aircraft manufacturing company, which manufactures the Falcon 7X, the N$/US$ rate stood at N$6,50 to the US dollar.

This soon escalated to over N$10 per US$. An agreement was also reached that Dassault would equip the plane according to the specifications required by the Namibian Government and give a N$2,5 million discount on the original price of the aircraft of US$51 million. “The contract was signed on 6 November 2008 and the first payment was made in March 2008. An amount of about N$130,5 million was paid and since that time the exchange rate started fluctuating and at one stage stood at more than N$10 to the US dollar,” Finance Deputy Minister Calle Schlettwein told Namibian Sun, adding that from the date of the signing and the payment, the weakening Namibia Dollar showed that Namibia may end up paying more than what was originally budgeted for the new Falcon.

“However the exchange rate started turning in our favour and when the second 30 per cent payment (US$15 million) was made last July an amount of just more than N$150 million was deposited in the bank account of the French company. The last payment of 40 per cent of the purchase price (US$20 million) will be paid when the plane is delivered and with the current exchange rate it will be about N$142 million. The total cost of the new Falcon will then be about N$423 million,” said Schlettwein.

The Falcon 7X can accommodate 19 passengers, a normal crew plus an engineer and can fly directly from Windhoek to either London or Paris without any stopovers. The range of the Falcon 7X makes it more costeffective, since stopover landing fees and often exorbitant fuel prices in some African countries would be a thing of the past. The current Presidential jet, the Falcon 900B, was bought for about N$75,5 million 18 years ago and has more than 4 000 flying hours on the clock.It has a book value of US$22 million and according to Minister Nghimtina it will only be sold once the new Presidential Falcon is in operation in Namibia.

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Jan Poolman
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