Government will, in future, consider introducing toll gates in all major roads.
The sentiments were subsequent to Francistown West MP, Mr Ignatius Moswaane’s motion, which requested government to consider introducing toll gates in all major roads for motor vehicles weighing 2500 kg and above.
When presenting the motion, Mr Moswaane said toll roads accelerated the viability of initial funding for construction, compared to traditional tax-based funding.
He said collecting tolls on selected roads reduced the total net cost to the economy, ensuring greater opportunities for prosperity and growth.
The Francistown West MP said tolls also assisted in meeting the demands of social services, which were important for the country’s economic growth.
He also added that tolls provided an on-going revenue stream, thus enabling the road to be adequately maintained and improved, independent of tax-based revenues.
Mr Moswaane said it was important to distinguish between tax and a toll, as in countries where tolls were not paid, the argument had generally been that the public was already paying tax.
He thus noted that tax was used to pay for the services, whether the public used them or not, while tolls on one hand would pay a portion of road that was used.
The Vice President, Mr Mokgweetsi Masisi supported the motion, saying it was a wonderful proposition because the intentions of the motion were noble.
Mr Masisi said shortage of funds to venture into such projects should not always be a hindrance, adding that would in the long run benefit the country’s economy.
He, however noted that due care would need to be exercised as toll gates could not be put in all roads across the country.
Letlhakeng-Lephephe MP, Mr Liakat Kablay also supported the idea of toll roads, suggesting that government could benchmark against SADC countries where toll gates proved efficient.
He said recent years had seen an increased number of vehicles in the country, hence a lot of income could be generated from toll gates.
Maun West MP, Mr Tawana Moremi also supported the motion and suggested that a study to look at the feasibility of introducing toll gates in some roads, that was conducted 10 years ago, be looked into again.
He was however worried about the poor quality of roads in the country and also their bad state.
Maun East MP, Mr Markus Kostantinos wanted the toll fee to be paid by every road user, regardless of the vehicle mass.
On the other hand, Mochudi West MP, Mr Gilbert Mangole did not agree with the motion on grounds that establishing toll gates was an expensive project, adding that it would be an economic burden to the government to maintain the gates.
Maj. Gen. Pius Mokgware of Gabane-Mankgodi constituency also opposed the motion, saying looking at the county’s economy and population, government could not break even from those toll gates. Meanwhile, Minister of Transport and Communications, Mr Tshenolo Mabeo said the ministry wished to commission a detailed feasibility study to establish the reasonableness of introduction of toll gates.
He said the study would inform the ministry on the way forward in relation to introducing toll gates in the public highway.
However, Mr Mabeo revealed that 2005 study findings, showed that introduction of toll gates would not be beneficial to the country as the traffic volumes at the time were considered to be low.
He noted that according to Botswana Transport and Infrastructure Statistics Report of 2013 compiled by Statistics Botswana, privately owned vehicle registered in Botswana in 2005 for all types of vehicles were around 185 043 and this figure grew significantly to 405 155 in the year 2013.
Further, he said of the 405 155 registered privately owned vehicles as at 2013, around 2 029 of them were trucks and tankers or horses which contributed 6.7 per cent of the registered vehicles.
“Looking at the proportion or percentage or percentage of trucks and horses relative to all registered vehicles, we are of the view that establishing toll gates to target trucks only, will not be economic as operation costs for toll gates would outweigh revenue collected,” Mr Mabeo said.
He also said tolling all major roads may render some of the toll gates redundant as a greater portion of trucks may be along a certain road as opposed to being evenly distributed along all major roads tolled.