Fuel levy will ‘hit poor the hardest’
PEOPLE who use public transport or those who don’t pay income tax must “shut up” about e-tolls, says transport economist Dr Roelof Botha.
He was making submissions on behalf of the South African National Roads Agency on the last day of submissions to the Gauteng e-toll review panel.
Yesterday was Sanral’s last chance to convince the panel that despite the anti-toll outcry, the system was the best option.
The panel, sitting in Pretoria, was appointed by Gauteng Premier David Makhura in July to examine the economic and social impact of the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project and the e-tolling system set up to fund it.
Botha said poor people and those who used public transport benefited from e-tolls because it saved them money and travel time.
He said people who used public transport should not take part in the e-tolls debate because it benefited them.
“If a policy has positive outcomes, why are you opposing it?” he asked.
“If you are in the bottom income quota and using public transport, then you should not actually participate in the debate.
“You should actually shut up and not participate.”
Panel member John Ngcebetsha interjected and said he did not like Botha’s tone.
“The issue is about making a submission and content, and not who may and may not participate in the debate,” Ngcebetsha said.
Sanral chief executive Nazir Alli leapt to Botha’s defence before Botha could continue with his presentation. Alli said the “opinions expressed by a presenter were no different from opinions expressed by detractors”, but it appeared that the detractors of e-tolls “seem to get a lot more space” to express their opinions.
During the break, Botha clarified his position by saying he did not mean that poor people should have no say in the matter.
“When you don’t own a car and use public transport, the e-toll system is significant in time saving, so you should not be opposed to it.
“If we now use the fuel levy, it will translate to the poor paying 35 times more,” Botha said.
Taxis have been exempt from paying e-tolls, which were introduced to Gauteng freeways on December 3 last year.
Another economist, Keith Lockwood, who also made submissions on behalf of Sanral, agreed with Botha that the province’s poorest residents would not face huge financial losses because of the tolling system.
Lockwood said about 94 percent of the tolling costs would be paid by the top 20 percent of earners in the province.
He said only 50 percent of cars used highways less than five times a month and nearly 70 percent less than 15 times a month.
On suggestions that the e-toll money be raised through the fuel levy, Lockwood said that would impact more on the poor than the rich.
He said it would lead to an increase in taxi and long-distance bus fares.
The panel, led by Professor Muxe Nkondo, will report back to Makhura by the end of the month.
The panel has received submissions from the public, political parties and NGOs.
CLARIFIED HIS POSITION: Dr Roelof Botha