Thursday, December 2, 2021

To toll or not to toll: Botswana mulls user-pays road option

Motorists in Botswana could be subjected to further fees if plans for a new toll system on the country’s major highways reach an implementation stage.

Already the government has indicated its readiness to put more tollgates in major roads across the country following the successful installation of toll gates at the Kazungula Bridge.

The Minister responsible for Transport – Thulaganyo Segokgo told Sunday Standard this week that tollgates system will assist to generate revenue for the government. The proceeds, Segokgo said, will also be used to help maintain roads.

He indicated that they are planning to put up more tollgates before the end of 2024.

“We are still in discussion over the e-tolling system but then again we are still establishing whether to finance the project or to go into Public Private Partnership” added Segokgo.

“We do not want an instance where we establish toll gates, only for us to fail to generate revenue” said Segokgo.

Segokgo indicated that a consultancy company will also be engaged to establish how much can be charged.

He also said the discussions over the implementation of e tolls started last year in October, adding that plans are to ensure that government budget does not get depleted as the infrastructure is financially demanding.

“The discussions over e tolls are currently on going and I must tell you that it is a subject matter that is currently in our triple P committee” said Segokgo.

He also said the committee will also be tasked with possibly identifying a country to benchmark.

“Of course, other countries are miles ahead with e tolls and I want to believe that they are generating revenue from major routes and that is the direction we want to take as well but like I said, consultations are still on going and very soon we shall roll out our map” said Segokgo.

Last month, government piloted the tolls system at the Kazungula bridge and it was reported that in its first day, the bridge collected over P200 000 , a revenue generated from 108 truck arrivals and 54 departures.

In 2015, Member of Parliament For Francistown West, Ignitious Moswaane tabled a motion which was adopted in Parliament, calling for the introduction of e tolls in major roads.

When presenting the motion, Moswaane said toll roads accelerated the viability of initial funding for construction, compared to traditional tax-based funding.

He said collecting tolls on selected roads reduced the total net cost to the economy, ensuring greater opportunities for prosperity and growth.

The Francistown West MP said tolls also assisted in meeting the demands of social services, which were important for the country’s economic growth.

He also added that tolls provided an on-going revenue stream, thus enabling the road to be adequately maintained and improved, independent of tax-based revenues.

Moswaane said it was important to distinguish between tax and a toll, as in countries where tolls were not paid, the argument had generally been that the public was already paying tax.

He thus noted that tax was used to pay for the services, whether the public used them or not, while tolls on one hand would pay a portion of road that was used.

Meanwhile, the former Minister of Minister of Transport – Tshenolo Mabeo said the ministry wished to commission a detailed feasibility study to establish the reasonableness of introduction of toll gates.

He said the study would inform the ministry on the way forward in relation to introducing toll gates in the public highway.

However, Mabeo revealed that 2005 study findings, showed that introduction of toll gates would not be beneficial to the country as the traffic volumes at the time were considered to be low.

He noted that according to Botswana Transport and Infrastructure Statistics Report of 2013 compiled by Statistics Botswana, privately owned vehicle registered in Botswana in 2005 for all types of vehicles were around 185 043 and this figure grew significantly to 405 155 in the year 2013.

Further, he said of the 405 155 registered privately owned vehicles as at 2013, around 2 029 of them were trucks and tankers or horses which contributed 6.7 per cent of the registered vehicles.

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