Maputo, 25 Jun (AIM) - President Armando Guebuza on Monday hit back at critics of his government who claim that Mozambicans are living in worse conditions than during the colonial period.
The President was speaking during celebratios of the 37th anniversary of Mozambican independence, which coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the country ruling party, the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo).
Answering his critics, President Guebuza said that "there is a growing awareness of the progress made since 25 June 1962, and since 25 June 1975, which by far exceeds what was recorded during five hundred years of foreign domination".
According to the President, the most important change is that Mozambicans are no longer foreigners in their own country. In addition, Mozambicans are in charge of making their own decisions about the country's wealth and its foreign policy.
For the President, Mozambique is rapidly changing for the better, with improvements in schools, higher education, health and the provision of electricity.
He gave as an example the fact that in 2004 the electricity network only covered seven per cent of the country. By 2011 that figure had increased to 32 per cent and the network is still expanding.
In addition, all districts now have at least one doctor. Now the Frelimo government is focusing on placing physicians at a more local level.
The President added that having clean water was an exception during colonial times. Today, the network of clean water is spreading in both urban and rural areas.
The head of state recognised that much remains to be done, adding "the challenge for Frelimo over the next 50 years is to remain cohesive, visionary and keep its support".
Other challenges for the party include strengthening internal democracy, continuous renovation, self-improvement and adapting to new developments in Mozambique and the world.
President Guebuza stated that Frelimo also needs to consolidate the Mozambican state by making its institutions increasingly relevant to the people.
The Mozambican leader also stressed the need to increase human capital through training. "It is with this human capital that we will develop more effectively and efficiently the abundant natural resources that we are gifted", he said.
The President concluded his speech by expressing his appreciation of the assistance provided by the country's international cooperating partners.
94612E RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS TO PAY TAXES
Maputo, 25 Jun (AIM) - For the first time in Mozambique's history religious denominations will be obliged to pay taxes.
The chairperson of Mozambique's Tax Authority, Rosario Fernandes, told the daily newspaper "Diario de Mocambique" that an agreement has been reached on when taxes have to be paid and when they are exempt.
He explained that some religious denominations carry out their activities on a commercial basis whilst others are yet to be registered at the Justice Ministry.
"We carried out a consultation process with 850 religious denominations and found huge variations, with some not having any commercial features. But where we find business transactions, they will be subject to taxation in line with the law", he stressed.
93612E TIMBER PRODUCERS TO CARRY OUT MARKET RESEARCH
Maputo, 25 Jun (AIM) - The Association of Forestry Operators in Sofala (ASOF) have decided to carry out market research to identify the world prices of various timber as a tool for selling to international firms.
The decision was taken following a meeting in Beira, the capital of the central Mozambican province of Sofala, between the forestry operators and the Sofala provincial governor, Carvalho Muaria, in which complaints were raised about the low prices gained for logs.
"The buyers, especially those of Chinese origin, decide the price, which we have no option but to accept", said the president of ASOF, Rui Goncalves.
According to the newspaper "Diario de Mocambique", Goncalves said that because the government is not involved in fixing timber prices, "we must organise ourselves and find a solution".
"The governor also warned us to be organised to improve our work in exploiting and selling the wood in a sustainable manner", he added.
However, an operator from the district of Cheringoma, Patricio Munhepe, argued that the process of fixing the price should involve the buyer, seller and government to form a consensus.
He urged, "although it is not obligatory to join ASOF, we can use the association to achieve a unified voice to solve our problems", and added that replanting the trees should be given a high priority to ensure reforestation.
92612E PUBLIC TENDER LAUNCHED FOR DEMINING FORMER ARMS DEPOT
Maputo, 25 Jun (AIM) - Mozambique's Environment Fund (FUNAB) has launched a public tender to select a company to carry out demining at the former arsenal in the outer Maputo suburb of Malhazine.
In May the Mozambican government announced that the site, covering an area of 568 hectares, is to become an "Ecological Park".
The tender document states that the company selected will carry out technical studies, mine clearance and quality control over the whole area.
"This is part of the government's strategy to clear the former military arsenal in Malhazine of mines, ammunition and unexploded ordnance", states FUNAB, which is part of the Environment Ministry.
The Ecological Park will include green spaces accommodating animal species representative of Mozambican wildlife. There will also be veterinary, research, and leisure facilities.
Unlike everywhere else in Maputo, the habitat in much of the 568 hectares is relatively untouched since this was a military area and ordinary citizens had no access to it.
The Malhazine arms depot was built in the colonial era, but with population growth it became surrounded by houses and commercial buildings.
The government decided to move the arms depot to a more remote area when disaster struck on 22 March 2007.
A mixture of high temperatures and negligence led to the arms dump exploding.
The blazing arsenal threw out rockets, mortars, huge artillery shells and other devices. The obsolete weaponry landed up to nine kilometres from the arsenal. The explosions killed 105 people and injured a further 515.
This was not the first explosion at the site. In 1985 thirteen people died and another hundred injured when the arsenal exploded.
91612E RIO TINTO EXPORT FIRST SHIPMENT OF COAL
Maputo, 25 Jun (AIM) -The Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto has carried out the first shipment of coal from its Benga mine in the western Mozambican province of Tete.
According to the daily newspaper "Noticias", on Friday night the ship "Genco Loire" left the port of Beira carrying 35,000 tonnes of coal bound for India.
Rio's second shipment is due to depart in July.
According to the chief executive of the Rio Tinto energy group, Doug Ritchie, this shipment marks an important point in the phased development of the company's operations in Mozambique.
The Benga mine, located in the Moatize coal basin, began operations in February and was officially inaugurated in May by President Armando Guebuza.
Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique, which runs the mine, is a partnership between Rio Tinto (with 65 per cent of the shares) and Tata Steel of India (with 35 per cent). The Mozambican government has announced that it will exercise its option to obtain a holding in the project.
The company's main headache is getting its coal to a port so that it can be exported.
At present, coal is moved along the Sena railway line to Beira. However, it has a limited capacity whilst repair work is taking place.
Once these repairs to the line have been completed, it will still only have the capacity to transport six and a half million tonnes of coal per year. Expanding the line will eventually increase the capacity to twenty million tonnes, but this is still nowhere near enough for all the coal projects that are being developed in Tete province.
Rio Tinto is considering moving the coal to Beira by barge along the Zambezi River, but that is dependent on convincing the Mozambican government that the company can mitigate any possible environmental damage. Rio Tinto is also looking at funding a completely new railway line to a new port.
There are also plans being drawn up to build a coal fired power station at its Benga. Rio Tinto intends to generate between 400 and 600 megawatts of power in the initial stage. However, the site has environmental approval for a power station capable of producing 2,000 megawatts.
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