Editorial: Increment in road tolls is good idea, but will the money be used for the right purpose?
Yesterday, we used this column to support the idea espoused by the Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, that the Ministry of Roads and Highways should liaise with the various metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies with the view to increasing property rates to finance construction of roads in local communities.
We supported the idea one hundred per cent, because as noted by Mr Mahama Ayariga, some of the estate developers in the country are already using this strategy to tar roads in the communities they have built. The only difference is that they (estate developers) are not collecting property rates, but have factored the cost of the road construction and tarring into the cost of the houses they sell.
But, as Ghanaians wait to see if the Minister for Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako Atta, would implement Ayariga’s suggestion, the former, also revealed at the forum where Ayariga made the suggestion that he would seek increment in road tolls if parliament gives him the nod to head the Roads Ministry again.
According to him, Ghana’s toll rates are the lowest in the world and this makes it unattractive to investors who would have wished to finance in roads through a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) agreement. He, therefore, indicated that if Ghanaians want to enjoy good roads, then they should be prepared to pay more tolls.
“Public Private Partnership (PPP), BOT, all these arrangements are feasible, but the most important thing is that when you toe that line, it means the potential investor would have to toll the road, but at the moment, Ghana pays the lowest toll rates in the whole world.
“Ghana pays the lowest rate, so if you want to go the BOT way, the research that has been done is that on the average, the toll rate is around a dollar, which is close to GH¢6, but in this developed countries, people pay 50 pesewas for toll rate.
“ … If I am given the approval, it is one of the things that I am going to do first. I desire to go to Cabinet with a proposal to increase road tolls and bring it to Parliament for approval,” he told the Appointment Committee of Parliament on Tuesday.
Once again, we agree that there must be an upward adjustment in the road tolls that we pay, but the big question is: will the money be available to construct to tar the roads? Tema Motorway was constructed over 50 years ago, and has been tolled up till date, but what is the status of the motorway now? Though the argument is that tolls collected on the roads are paid into the Road Fund, which is then used to rehabilitate roads in the country, at least the hen that lays the golden egg should have been given priority.
As we admitted yesterday, infrastructure is built using taxes, and that Europe and America have developed their facilities because they pay huge taxes. The simple logic then is that if we also want to develop up to their levels, we must be prepared to pay more taxes to rake in enough revenue to execute these development projects.
But the problem with black African is that when the people are taxed and the revenue starts coming in, people in authority start devising ways to siphon them into their private pockets.
If Minister Amoako-Atta can assure the nation that this would not happen under his watch, and that he would make sure every pesewa has been accounted for, there is no way he would not get public support should he seek the increment in the road tolls.
In fact, if we are to pay realistic tolls, it would be easier for us, as a country, to finance the dualisation of the Elubo-Takoradi-Cape Coast-Accra-Tema-Aflao trans-West Africa Highway. The same can be said about the Accra-Kumasi-Sunyani high. Since the volumes of traffic on the aforementioned roads are very high, it will be easy for investors who opt for a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) agreement to recoup their investment, but only when realistic tolls are being paid.
We insist that an increment in the road tolls will play a major role in the building of roads in the country, but its acceptance will depend on how the Minister is going to craft his message and give assurance that the tolls would be used to construct our roads and nothing else.