COMMENT: Build high quality roads and launch toll gates

SHARE   |   Monday, 13 March 2017   |   By Staff Writer
COMMENT: Build high quality roads and launch toll gates

The recent rains while very much welcomed have exposed the bad state of our roads. Almost all have potholes, including newly constructed ones. In worse cases sections of roads have been washed away. Road travel has become more risky than it has ever been. Motorists cannot be sure of the safety of the bridges they cross. They don’t know which one is barely holding and the one not to dare. This calls for a drastic review of quality assurance system and roads standard monitoring system. All roads whose tarmac is at the end of its lifespan should be made public and so should be the names of bridges which Government engineers have identified as risky to use. If there is any new Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) that Government wants to unveil it should be on up scaling the quality of our roads. Government should look for alternative sources of funding and inter into Public Private Partnership (PPPs) to develop high quality roads. It should not hesitate to turn the country into a huge construction site because this will also come as a relief to those who are in need of employment.

Thereafter the free use of Botswana roads should come to an end. Tolls gates must be introduced to pay back for the construction of the roads, their maintenance since they endure constant tear and wear. At this point people from the south of this country who now have to bear the inconvenience of the closed Gaborone/Lobatse road would understand better why high quality roads must be build and motorists be charged toll at the gates. The same applies to the users of Francistown/ Maun and Francistown/Kasane roads. This in fact applies all across Botswana. The roads are in quite a bad state and there is an urgent need to identify a lasting solution to their repair and upkeep. We cannot afford to have Government bear all the costs when there are so many competing needs that it has to service. Mines are closing, more students need sponsorship and the poor require an increase in their upkeep stipends. It is for this reason that a private sector partnership can be seen as an option. The private sector partner will ensure that the loan is paid because it will have to provide an efficient toll collection system to meet its own costs of building the road. This is also what Government has been alluding to – that it creates policies that enable business to thrive and allow private sector to create jobs.

Thousands of jobs will be created in building these roads. This is urgent because the roads are of necessity soon going to be a turn off to potential investors and even tourists. Imagine tourists turning away from Botswana because they are afraid of overturning with cars after hitting potholes and ditches! They will go to countries with good roads. Investors do not have a lot of time and patience with environment that put them at risk. Our roads are effective not only a danger to our lives but to our guests’ as well. They are a turn off and soon the statistics of investors choosing to go elsewhere not only because of our prohibitive immigration policies but our roads will pile up. With roads like this, one might say, there is no need to be so restrictive in our VISA vetting! The roads are already doing the trick. Government should take heed now and invest in better ways of improving the quality of our roads. It has never been this urgent!