Hiking fuel levy hurts poor – by Dipuo Peters

We want South African road users to keep driving on the left side of the road, not on what is left of the road. The ideal funding method and source of finance for road infrastructure remains a challenge.

Unlike public transport and social infrastructure, economic infrastructure has the user as the direct beneficiary, contributing directly to the development and maintenance costs. While some people in our country continue to propose a fuel levy to fund the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP), the government has adopted the user-pay principle. This has been carefully considered against other possible alternatives and was adopted in July 2007.

A proper understanding of road financing is important to be able to come to a reasoned conclusion on the issue. South Africa has the l0th-largest road network in the world – more than 750 000km. Of this, South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) is responsible for 21 403km, which makes up the national road network. Sanral receives funding from the national fiscus for the maintenance of the non-toll road network, which is 18 283km.

The other 3 120km make up the tolled part of Sanral`s portfolio. The current estimated road backlog funding is R197 billion, with an annual requirement of R23.2 billion to address the backlog over 10 years. Furthermore, about R66 billion per year is required just to sustain our roads – pushing the required budget to R89.2 billion a year. But actual spending on roads across all government levels was almost half this – only R44 billion for 2014-15.

As a result of budget constraints, the non-toll budget baseline allocated to Sanral by the National Treasury from the 1990s to 2011 was below the requirement for sustaining the national road network. In 2012, it was nearly sufficient, but still not enough to address the backlogs.

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