Roads, Communication Key to Growth [opinion]

Government has placed communication and road infrastructure high on its development agenda as this plays a pivotal role in the country’s economic growth.

Resources poured into road infrastructure development and maintenance annually, account for a major component of the Government’s expenditure.

Construction of roads countrywide may appear to be an easy task but to maintain the same infrastructure every year is quite costly.

The wear and tear caused to the major road network is so much that, there is hardly enough money to continue pouring into the maintenance of such infrastructure.

Transportation of heavy goods such as copper and bulky mining equipment from the point of entry into the country and beyond by both local and foreign trucks, has caused great damage to this country’s road infrastructure.

It is in this light that calls by the Zambia Freight Forwarders Association (ZAFFA) urging Government to come up with a policy to compel importers and exporters of heavy equipment and minerals such as copper to instead use rail transport, should be acted upon immediately.

This country’s rail transport has been under-utilised and such measures will do to ensure the railway infrastructure is fully utilised.

This will help the Government to reduce the huge sums of tax payers’ money poured into the maintenance of these roads which were constructed at a high cost.

According to ZAFFA chairperson Emmanuel Mutale, the policy should also see to it that all transporters be it local or foreign, pay road tax so that the revenue realised, is directed to road maintenance.

Hundreds of heavy local and foreign trucks traversing Zambian roads on a daily basis en route to the sea ports of Durban in South Africa, Maputo in Mozambique or Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania for example, have contributed much to the damage of roads.

It has been observed that Zambia’s geographical location puts its road network under intense pressure than any other Southern African Development Community (SADC) or Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) country.

Data shows that the Zambian Government’s expenditure on the maintenance of road infrastructure in 2013 rapidly rose to about 75 per cent from 45 per cent in 2009, due to an increased number of heavy duty trucks at the expense of rail transport.

Therefore, the National Road Toll Act number 14 of 2011 should fully be implemented to ensure that toll gates throughout the country’s 17 documented busy roads are constructed and operationalised without any further delay.

The budget for road maintenance has been rising every year and that, the high number of local and foreign trucks using these roads as they pass through Zambia, virtually pay nothing in terms of toll taxes to the Government.

On the other hand, construction of toll gates on the country’s roads by the Roads Development Agency (RDA), will apart from raising colossal sums of revenue, generate hundreds of jobs for the locals and help to reduce high poverty levels.

It must also be taken into consideration that sustainable roads are key to national development and for the economy to thrive, Zambia should have viable roads that will invariably ignite the country’s economic engine.

Source : The Times of Zambia

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