BY VANESSA GUZHA
GOVERNMENT has increased passport fees and those applying for the travel document will pay in United States dollars to mobilise enough resources to clear the 256 000 backlog.
In a post-Cabinet brief, government said it would provide US$4,5 million to purchase the required equipment and consumables that have been in short supply.
“Cabinet noted that failure to provide passports on time is causing inconveniences to citizens, with the current backlog now at 256 000,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
“The passport production factory has an installed production capacity of 8 000 passport booklets per day. However, the passport personalisation capacity is way below at 2 500 passports per day, while the installed quality assurance is further down at 2 000 passports per day,” she said.
The increase in passport fees comes after thousands of Zimbabweans, before the outbreak of COVID-19 in March last year, were queuing for the travel document amid renewed appetite to leave the country in the face of the prevailing economic crisis.
The statement added: “Foreign currency is required for the off-shore procurement of consumables. However, the current fees payable in the local currency are no longer viable due to the fact that the auction exchange rate, when applied to the fees charged, translate to unviable returns on expenses. The production cost for a single passport is US$58,55.
“Cabinet agreed that measures be taken to deal effectively with the current situation which is affecting locals and diasporans, alike. Thus passport fees were reviewed to US$60, and $200 for a three-day passport issuance, pegged at the average US$:ZW$ exchange rate. An emergency 24-hour passport remains pegged at a cost of US$318. This will ensure appropriate cost-factored passport revenue. E-passport fees are pegged at US$80.
Government assured the public that passports issuance services will run uninterrupted until the backlog is cleared.
“The passport issuance shifts will be increased to three in order to expedite production. New machines are being acquired in order to improve operations. The training of personnel to work on the passport issuance programme will commence immediately,” she said.
“Import substitution will be embarked upon in order to reduce the import bill by engaging local industry and the university innovation and industrial hubs.”
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