You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2021 11 22Article 1407154

Opinions of Monday, 22 November 2021

Columnist: Martin Asubonteng

Paying Tollbooth fees has no political colours, it is neither NDC or NPP or APC

Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta

The relief to drivers due to the suspension of paying toll fees at tollbooths
We all pay tolls unless you are part of the special ones with police escort, siren or flashy lights.

I am not sure whose interest our MPs serve in parliament, my questions is - Mr. speaker, who do you represent?

Just because our MPs and officials drive at top speed in the middle of the roads with their police rider escort, blazing sirens and airconditioned tinted V8, while we respectively make way for them to pass us , doesn’t mean they should turn a blind eye to the plight of the daily commuting drivers, who are also citizens with voters ID cards.

The tollbooth concept was design as a form of levy on vehicle drivers to contribute toward road construction and maintenance in the country. Therefore, it was not designed as an alternate marketplace for street hawkers.

The vehicle owner, who before owing a vehicle to drive on our roads, must endure the payment of several taxes to the state. We pay import duties on vehicles imported, pay at DVLA for registering, licensing and roadworthy certificates. We pay taxes on insurance, and above all pay taxes on the we use to run the vehicle.

Now, after paying all these taxes to enable us to drive on these unworthy roads, especially around the very tollbooth areas, our vehicles get damaged because of the poor condition of roads in that particular section. In essence, Kasoa – Accra -cape coast and Amasamah Tollbooths- Accra -Kumasi.

The driver’s plight is further compounded by spending minutes and sometimes hours of previous time around tollbooths due to traffic condition.
While ordinary drivers have been targeted for every form of money extortion schemes by the state, the following happens around the tollbooth.

•Wastage of Fuel on non-productive activity
We waste expensive fuel just standing still in long queues to pay money. Non-productive usage of fuel as a country – the vehicle engines are running but we are not moving to cover the expected productive kilometres.

So, we lose collectively on fuel which does not contribute to national productivity. Commercial transport businesses are operating on very tight margins and therefore not making business attractive.

•Pollution of Environment
We pollute the air around us while in traffic, contributing to global warming. Let us not underestimate the impact of Global warming in Ghana. Even our recent rainfall and sea tidal erosion pattern should be a wake-call to all of us up as a nation

•Degrading of our health
Drivers inhale concentrated toxic fume from our own vehicle engines and other cars around while in these traffics. This leads to chronic diseases such as asthma and other lung/ breathing complications.

Scientific research from reputable institutions across the world has established that motor vehicles contribute 72 % of the nitrogen oxides and 52 % of reactive hydrocarbons in the world. In effect, we are killing ourselves slowly by paying our tollbooth fee.

Drivers’ pains are further exacerbated by constant stress on the road. The anger generated by the activities of some indiscipline drivers/motor ridders (Okada) who break all the road safety rules just to bypass law abiding drivers incomprehensible and beyond believe, driving on reserve lanes, some driving in opposite directions, those with 4X4 USV pretending to be officials and driving with sirens and techno lights to bypass traffic. Some these indiscipline could even lead one to have a stroke or heart attack or some chronic blood and heart diseases.

Most regular commuting drivers, don’t even have enough sleep, because they leave their homes very early and come home late just to beat the traffic – leading to some serious domestics issues and marriage breakdowns

•Impact on Business Operations
Commuters and businesspersons miss important appointments because of these delays.

Business opening times are affected because some key workers are late
Some workers lose their jobs due to lateness; some job seekers miss their interview appointments due to road traffic

•Impact on Tourism and Business investments in Ghana.
Most of these tollbooths are sited on roads leading tourist attraction site or industrial hubs, e.g. Accra -Cape coast road. It is a nightmare to transport tourists to our tourist sites. Going to Tema industrial district.

•Creating illegal tollbooth market business - Street hawkers

Apart from the lack organisation, rubbish created around the tollbooth, there is also a serious underground world of child trafficking. We should not ever deceive ourselves, that all the young ones selling around, in between slow moving cars, and risking their lives are there by their will, some have been brought from the villages and forced to go and sell for their masters.

Street hawking lacks the social structures that operates within our normal market’s places and therefore most of these trafficking goes undetected. Child trafficking is a thriving business around tollbooths – just talk to some of the sellers and they will tell you some horrible stories.

Also, we all know that some young persons will choose making money now over the painful aspect of going to school especially when you are coming from a poorer home or where educations hasn’t been seen as a vehicle for social leap in a family, therefore giving them choice between street hawking and going to school, they will chose street hawking over free SHS, but let us ask ourselves what type of future leaders do we want?

Mr. speaker, in whose interest, are you representing in parliament? The private political operators of the tollbooth, who run these booths on behalf of the state and get a percentage share, the govt who wants to abolish it, the ordinary worker who collects the toll money or the illegal street hawkers or the citizens who happens to buy a car to drive or the poor commuter , who could not afford the high renting/land cost in inner cities and have decided to locate to the outskirts.

Why should a mere breach of parliamentary procedure wrestle with the minister announcement to suspend the paying of toll fees? Afterall, the budget will be approved in one way or the other in Ghana.

Why don't you look at the following bigger socio-economic benefits to Ghana?

1.Savings on fuel wastage and the benefit to both govt & drivers.
Fuel prices are going up every day, both globally and domestically, as a country we use foreign currency $ to import so we make savings by having a free flow of traffic

2.Combating Global Warming
We are saving the future of human race by collectively reducing pollution - Global warming is real and the signs are there for all to see, it requires a collective effort to fight it.

3.Improving the Citizens health
Drivers breathe quality air, spend adequate time at home with family because we don’t have to leave home early and come back late, sleep longer, less stress cause by indiscipline prolong life.

4.Discourage an illegal street hawking activity.
Change the paradigm that street hawking as an alternative normal commercial marker, while revenue mobilisation is easy in normal market situation, it will be very difficult to tax sellers on the street.

Stop the illegal child trafficking, child labour and other abuses going on around the street hawking business
Prevent the daily motor injuries and sometimes death sustained by street hawkers. Ask yourself, would you want your child to be a street hawker.
Encourage the young one to seek the path of education instead of quick money of street hawking.

Stop the flow of rural urban youth migration, thinking they will just sell on the street and survive.

5.Business services and new job creation opportunities
Tourism will improve (potential to be a national earner) – employment, direct foreign exchange inflow to the nation.

Transport business will be attractive, for example more and more people will use other forms of mobility like Ubers without thinking about the travelling cost
Courier and other delivering services grow. Business operations open and close on time, business appointments are kept

Mr. Speaker, and members of parliaments, the minister of roads has given us the assurance that toll booths attendants won’t be laid off, they'll continue to receive salary and retrained for the future, drivers are happy to pay another form of toll provided they don’t have to go through the tollbooth suffrage again. Let come out with solutions that will ease the pain of our citizens and not allow politics or procedures to blind us –