Following the Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s reference to reduced toll fees for the Gauteng’s Freeway Improvements (GFIP), the South African Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association (SAVRALA) is adamant that “this funding mechanism is inefficient, impractical and unacceptable” says Wayne Duvenage, vice president of SAVRALA. “We salute the Minister for apportioning R5,8bn of our taxes toward the GFIP, but ask why stop at a quarter of the amount required, especially in light of the extra 20c added to the fuel levy?”
It is incorrect to assume that because the improved freeways will reduce congestion, save costs and improve safety, we must now accept the funding thereof to be conducted through a complicated, inefficient and extremely costly process. The GFIP urban tolling plan has been ill-conceived and thrust upon the Gauteng road user with minimal consultation or consideration to its impact. It’s not about the fee. Even at 10c per kilometer, it is the principal of tolling our urban daily routes to work and back that is wrong. The implementation of an efficient road infrastructure is one of the roles of Government, and they are tasked to do this in the most efficient manner possible for its citizens.
More frustrating is the double whammy of the additional 20c to fuel levy. The current R1.77c fuel levy will increase to just under R2 per liter from April. This will secure around R27bn per annum going forward. Combine this with the existing long distance toll revenues, local license fees and some input from the national treasury pot (yes, it’s not strange to expect some of our general taxes to contribute toward roads) and you have sufficient funding for our national road infrastructure upgrading and maintenance, if the money is spent wisely.
The fuel levy is the most efficient and equitable user-pay principle, which, when applied ensures that all road users contribute to all our roads in direct proportion of their usage. Every time one fills a tank with fuel, they contribute approximately R140 toward the maintaining and building an efficient road system. To toll the GFIP suggests that all road upgrades in future should be tolled – unless SANRAL plans to be inconsistent with this principle. Does one detect a quandary in the making?
Why on earth would Gauteng citizens want or need to pay an additional R1,6bn per annum to manage the collection of these funds when the fuel levy can be applied almost free of administration costs? Gauteng citizens more than pay their way toward the total tax basket of the country’s economy and yet receive much less in return. To now burden this economic hub with a cumbersome, expensive and inefficient urban toll system is immoral and blatantly wrong.
It is also wrong to assume that because the gantries are built, there is no turning back. To press on with tolling our urban roads will be throwing good money after bad. There is a far more viable alternative and SAVRALA, along with a number of other business associations will now seriously consider a joint legal challenge against this process. Initial consultations have revealed significant transgressions of the law and the constitutional rights of the public in this regard.
Editorial contact: Paul Pauwen 083 250 0333 (www.savrala.co.za)