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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman

The New Road Tolls Are Harshly Exorbitant

By Alex Bossman Baafi

The Ministry of Roads and Highways recently announced a new Road and Bridge Toll Rates which takes effect from February 01, 2010. The rationale behind the drastic upward adjustment is to generate revenue perhaps for the construction of more roads, and also to maintain and improve upon the existing ones.

Though we all need good and motorable roads to facilitate smooth movements of goods and services as part of the Better Ghana Agenda and for the betterment of all in this country, the rate of increases in my opinion is totally unacceptable and unpatriotic. This is because drivers are not against the increase per se but the quantum of the increase some of which has increased more than one thousand times.

For many motorists that ply on our roads, more especially the Accra – Tema motorway, this is a further blow below the belt as the incidence of this tax will go a long way to further reduce their disposable incomes in addition to the drastic fuel price hikes last year. For example, a person who uses a Pick – Up Truck and lives in Tema but works in Accra currently pays GHP8 at each toll point and therefore pays an average of GHP16 on using the motorway every working day. With the new increases, that person will pay an average of GHC2.00. This shows an increase of GHP184 a day. When you divide the GHP184 (GHC1.84) by GHP16 and multiply the answer by 100 per cent, you shockingly arrive at 1,150% as the increase. For me it does not make any economic sense anywhere in the world where peoples’ wages remain the same over a year and even when there will be upward adjustment, it will not be more than 17%. To put a human face on the adjustment, I believe a gradual upwards review would not have been too bitter a pill to swallow.

Also, let us now consider the ordinary Tro-Tro commercial Mini Bus driver who plies on the motorway from Ashaiman to Accra 10 times in a day end up paying GHC10.00 instead of GHP80. Who is going to suffer the difference of GHC9.20? Is it the owner or the driver? In any case the final incidence of the toll is worse off.

What went into the calculation of the increase? Was all stakeholders consulted? If that was not possible, was there any education to the increase effect? I strongly believe that anytime a decision that affects peoples’ life such as this is taken, those concerned must be informed or educated well enough about the changes and why it is necessary. You cannot always take people for granted.

Tolls collection had been part of the motorway since its advent yet the Ministry of Roads and highways cannot pride itself of any major expansion or improvement to date with potholes on it turning to manholes to the detriment of commuters. The pertinent question to ask is where has all the toll money gone to? Who know? Has the Ministry of Roads and Highways rendered an account of the toll money to the public before that you know of?

Taxes of this nature puts the government in the position to fund the construction of good roads infrastructure but this is virtually absent in our country because of abuse of power, greed, widespread corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation of tax revenue by the officialdom to the detriment of the masses.

It is the hope of the good people of this country that at the end of the day the Ministry of Roads and Highways will render accounts on all tolls money within specified periods because tax money must be expended in a way that tends to benefit the tax payers. Much as we welcome and encourage payments of taxes such an arbitrarily exorbitant increase is surely not in the interest of our people.

Email: abkbossman@yahoo.co.uk