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E-tolls, fuel hikes and interest rates - where will it end?

07.07.2014

ON THE back of yet another fuel price increase last week I managed to get hot under the collar again over this e-toll debacle. Well, actually, I was already heated up from the ongoing strike in the metal industry, which may see South Africa lose a vital piece of automotive investment from a major manufacturer very soon.

Any loss in foreign investment could spell disaster. Our Rand could weaken and interest rates (which are already destined to increase), could increase again meaning less money in our bank account. Aside from this, if one manufacturer pulls out, others may follow suit or potential investors may see this as a warning sign to steer clear of South Africa.

We will pay more for our car repayments, every month, thanks to the interest rate; more for our fuel each month and then we’re hit with a minimum of R450 per month for this e-toll thing.

Unfortunately, It’s becoming unsustainable and hopeless for the middle class (never mind the poor), to continue living in this country.

 Back to e-tolling. I was driving to work and I noticed an e-toll protest where several people were standing on a bridge with banners, reading: “Hoot if against e-tolls.” This is apparently the work of an organisation called, 1 million motorists refuse to pay e-tolls.

It turns out this organisation has over 120 000 (and counting) “likes” on its Facebook page. It’s not exactly one million but it’s still an impressive figure meaning there’s some serious momentum behind this establishment. As I passed, all I could hear was varying pitches from my fellow commuters’ hooters which echoed off the bridge and made a heck of a noise. Suffice to say, drivers of the particular group of vehicles I was next to, were vehemently against e-tolling.

I encourage you to have a look at this organisation’s profile on Facebook, whether you’re for, or against, e-tolling. The information and allegations are of a serious nature. One picture mentions the amount of money collected from the fuel levy which we all pay when filling up. The page claims that some R238 billion has been collected from this levy in just six years; that’s enough to pay for our “e-roads” ten times over.

The picture also calls for a forensic audit to ascertain exactly what all that money has been spent on. I do wonder whether a portion of the current fuel levy could be set aside to pay for e-tolls instead of tuck shops and swimming pools, to put out fires – if you know what I mean.

I raise this particular issue because on the back of a notable decline in terms of votes within the Gauteng region, the ANC appear to have realised that forcing e-tolling on the public is simply not the way to go. The current party went from 64.4 percent of the votes in 2009 to 53.59 percent in Gauteng, this year. Many have blamed e-tolling for the decline.

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura, recently affirmed the ANC’s e-toll worries when he announced he would set up a panel to investigate the impact of e-tolling, while exploring new methods of paying for this system.

One such method is a fuel levy - much like our current levy - but in this instance, an e-toll-specific levy. Last year, economist, Mike Schussler, was employed by the Road Freight Association to calculate the efficacy of e-tolling versus a fuel levy. He concluded that e-tolling was better for everyone as it would cost less, providing there was compliance by the public. The administrative costs must be going through the roof with the amount of outstanding fees.

 Surely a fuel levy would soften the blow to consumers? I, for one, think the current fuel levy and the tax I pay from my hard-earned salary each month, should entitle me to a good road network, which I can use to get to and from work to pay the government its taxes on my income, my petrol, my food and my life.

Melodramatics aside, it’s seriously a vicious circle these days and this trio of fuel price increases, e-tolling and interest rates is making this a circle in which many people will struggle to orbit.

What are your suggested solutions for an alternative method of funding?

 

Article written by Sean Nurse
07.07.2014
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