Maputo — Road tolls are the most sustainable way of maintaining Mozambique's road network, according to Angelo Lichanga, the chairperson of the public company Revimo (Road Network of Mozambique).
Interviewed in Monday's issue of the independent newssheet, "Carta de Mocambique", Lichanga vigorously defended the decision to install four tollgates along the Maputo Ring Road, which has aroused fury from the powerful motoring lobby.
Lichanga pointed out that users already pay for their water and electricity supplies, and he did not see why road users should be treated any differently.
Road tolls, he said, would lighten the burden that roads currently represent for the state budget, and would strengthen justice among citizens, since the roads would be paid for by the people who use them rather than by public resources, paid for by all Mozambican taxpayers, and the taxpayers of donor countries.
There was nothing new about the principle of "the users pay", he added. Road tolls had been charged for centuries, and in countries across the globe.
"Faced with the scarcity of internal resources, in many developing countries roads are built with resources obtained from development partners", Lichanga noted. "The beneficiary countries, who should guarantee the maintenance of the roads, don't have enough money in their public budgets, which results in the early deterioration of the roads".
Tolls, he argued, created a new source of revenue to build or maintain roads without increasing general taxation. They would be a stable source of finance for road maintenance that did not depend on the state budget, and future revenue from the tolls could be used as guarantees for loans, obtained for further investments in the road network.
The tolls would also allow cross subsidies between roads, whereby roads with high construction or maintenance costs would be subsidised from the excess revenue collected from the roads with lower costs.
The government has, in principle, been committed to raising funds for the roads from tolls for many years - but resistance from the motoring lobby, and its supporters in civil society, has successfully delayed the introduction of toll gates on most of the country's trunk roads.