Budget 2021

SA's roads overlooked in Mboweni's budget, says industry body

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South Africa's 750 000-kilometre road network is one of the pillars of our economy and should have featured prominently in the Budget that was presented in parliament last week.

This is according to Saied Solomons, president of the South African Road Federation.

'Far from ideal'

"Right now, the funding of our roads remains inherently flawed in the absence of a policy to enable a road funding mechanism and administration that is acceptable to all stakeholders," says Solomons.

"The fuel levy increase - by 29 cents per litre for petrol and 30 cents per litre for diesel - is a far from ideal way to finance our roads. This levy taxes the poor at the same tax rate as the rich."

Those who can afford newer, more fuel-efficient cars are paying less to travel the same distance than those who are less well-off and drive older vehicles, Solomons says.

Government is also losing revenue due to the continuous improvement in vehicle fuel efficiency. Many people are paying more road use tax through the fuel levy than what their fair share of road use demands, in his view.

"With more electric vehicles on the horizon, the fuel levy would not be sustainable. It also does not consider road damage caused by the mass of a vehicle and critically, it cannot be used as a tool to manage congestion during peak periods," says Solomons.

Double the vehicles

The number of vehicles that people own in SA has doubled since 1994, with some 40% of these vehicle owners living in Gauteng.

With this demand on roads, road users are paying more and more in time due to congestion.

Solomons says that South Africa urgently needs a tariff setting mechanism that deals with congestion as well as bad driving behaviour, for which the fuel levy is not suitable.

"The Road Accident Fund levy remains highly problematic. In 2017, the road accident bill, according to the Road Traffic Management Corporation, was some R142bn and escalation of this figure has occurred since then," says Solomons.

"But a significant portion of this money goes to the legal profession without benefiting the road user. Furthermore, this levy also doesn't consider who caused the accident."

R3.5bn was allocated to South African National Roads Agency Ltd (Sanral) to improve non-toll roads over the next three years.

"This money does not address the serious backlogs in road maintenance that we have on our roads which the South African Road Federation calculated requires an additional R23.3bn per year to address," says Solomons.

"Ultimately, we need a completely new approach to road funding based on paying per the mass of the vehicle and the distance travelled. We need to develop a system of road pricing that varies by when, how much and where drivers use the roads. This should involve a tariff setting mechanism that influences behaviour and helps manage road capacity."

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