Tollgate Conundrum: RFA proposal tenses Namibians in weak economy
By Josef Kefas Sheehama.
The tollroad proposal is questionable, coming at a time when people are facing undue hardship, including high cost of living. As such, Namibians see themselves as being caught between the devil and the deep sea. The introduction of tollgates becomes another punishment for Namibia.
According to the Road Fund Administration (RFA), it anticipates a massive potential increase in revenues from tollgates. This will translate to about between N$500 million to N$750 million per annum, just by tolling 23 sections of our road network.
Why should one pay for a road when they want to move from one place to another. When we pay taxes these monies are used for the service which government renders to us all. Taxes are used to pay for these services, whether we make use of all of them or not. This will greatly inconvenience not only the motoring public, but also workers, as this would further increase the cost of transport for the already hard-hit Namibians. It is inhuman.
If nothing changes, it will seem like a tragedy to lower-income households. In light of the current threat to the nation’s economy, the ruling, if left unchallenged, will not only destabilize the country but also further stifle economic recovery. Therefore, we shall challenge this new proposal policy.
Inequality in its various forms is an issue that affects all humans and inequality is not only a threat to economic and social rights, it impedes the advancement of all rights.
Furthermore, most motorists are low-income earners driving Dankie-Botswana vehicles and this will be a tough ride for them as they will be forced to part with their few hard-earned dollars. I believe it will be a good initiative after our economy has stabilized.
So, there are national roads which most citizens will never use, yet their tax is used to pay for these roads. The RFA is not helping us at all but wants us to get even poorer. We are taxed every month, imagine now we have to pay tollgates. It’s so aggravating to realize that the government does not put into consideration how these escalating fees will affect us and make us miserable, people have cars to pay, mortgages to pay and school fees to pay. They are robbing us with the tax money and now its tollgates.
It is easy for the rich to pay these fees. The same applies for the government officials who use government’s cars and so on paid for by the tax payers. What about the poor? What about the citizens already scraping by and barely making ends meet? Pay more for diesel, pay more for food, and pay more for this and that.
It is indeed difficult to fathom how Namibia, with a shriveling economy which saw many people retrenched in 2021, a country where the few who are employed earn salaries below the poverty line and where the majority survive on the informal sector, can propose tollgates when the same is being resisted in the much more developed economy of South Africa. In Namibia, motorists simply cannot afford the additional cost of tollgates.
I think it is better for the RFA to think deeply before making any laws and decisions. It will be in the interest of the RFA to look for other alternatives to strengthen the economic policies of the government and return Namibia to the good old days instead of introducing tollgates.
There is no denying the fact that it is a means of generating funds that can be used to maintain those roads and equally raise government revenue. However, we should know that these times are extremely hard and there is a limit to which people can be pushed to spend non-existent money.
Therefore, the plan to build tollgates is ill-timed and anti-masses. Let the rich stop pushing the poor because the poor are near the wall.
The introduction of tollgates will have great impact on business, especially Small and Medium Enterprises. The 7 seater and minibus owners are faced with exorbitant charges which will threaten their business operations. This could eventually push up the cost of transport and, consequently, the prices of services and products.
Inevitably, this burden will be passed on to the consumer. The public needs assurance from the government that the money collected will be used for the intended purposes and not diverted through fraud and corruption.
Tollgates are generally erected for the purpose of raising additional revenue, and they appear to be a suitable instrument if the object is revenue earmarking or private financing and management of roads. However, investment lumpiness and increasing returns make roads a commercially viable enterprise only occasionally.
Taxing the people to death can never be the right way to shore up our depleting earnings as a nation. Going forward, the idea of having tollgates may not go down well with the masses due to perceived lack of transparency. Our lawmakers should always realize that Namibians will not just fall for any law that will not benefit them at all. Moreover, ideas like these should not just be announced from nowhere but there should be clear sensitization on the part of the public so that they understand and appreciate why they are being asked to pay for using the roads to avoid a backlash.
At this end, you can’t give what you don’t have. This is not the time for collection of tolls; the economy is not doing well and there is a limit to which people can be pushed to spend non-existent money.
Therefore, The RFA should target foreign trucks and let the status quo for Namibian vehicles continue. I do not support the proposal.