Paying for use of tax-financed roads
Some years ago former the Minister of Transport and Works Robert Pickersgill was on a radio call-in programme touting the conversion of the Old Harbour bypass into a toll road. I took the opportunity to call in and voice my opposition to such a move.
My views then are the same now — one of the most fundamental functions of government is to provide infrastructure that will aid in economic development and spending our taxes on road development is manifestly justified.
As best as I can recall, his answer, in part, was that the Government did not have the money to build and maintain the proposed new road.
I live in Manchester and have been very pleased with the opening of the Williamsfield to May Pen leg of the east to west highway. Its benefits are well documented, so no need for me to repeat them here. However, I have some questions:
1) Why is it being contemplated charging for the use of this road that we the taxpayers will have paid for when the Government eventually repays the loans used to partly finance its construction?
2) Why is there a plan to turn over the management and maintenance of this publicly financed road to a private company that has an obligation to its shareholders to make a profit?
3) The Government is currently building a similar, but much more expensive and similarly financed, four lane highway from Harbour View to Port Antonio and I have heard of no plans to charge for the use of this road, why the difference?
Due to its astute handling of the Jamaican economy the Andrew Holness-led Government has placed our public finances in a much better state than it has been for in a very, very long time. Consequently, the Pickersgill excuse does not apply, so I eagerly await rational answers to the questions posited. Hopefully, none will be that toll free transit along the new highway is adversely affecting businesses along the old route through Clarendon Park and the ever-hazardous Scott’s Pass; hence, the need to divert some traffic onto the old route by charging for use of the new route.
This, in my opinion, would be tantamount to asking users of the new road to indirectly subsidise these private businesses by paying for its use — a very irrational argument, in my view.
Alwyn K Gregory