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Toll fees good initiative

GOVERNMENT needs revenue all the time to implement various programmes and keep its machinery on the wheels.
Without such revenue, a number of national projects would ground to a halt. Revenue that Government collects from various sources in the country saves it from borrowing from outside sources.
Such self-financing sources are other components that can reduce borrowing for the national budget.
It is, therefore, imperative that Government continues to look for more sources of raising funds to finance various projects.
It is in this vein that we want to commend Government for initiating the collection of funds through toll fees by the Road Development Agency (RDA).
According to a statement given by Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Yamfwa Mukanga, the RDA exceeded its target of K250 million by K47 million.
The funds collected last year through toll fees amounted to K279 million and this is what forms our observations today.
The tolling exercise is divided between fees collected from heavy goods vehicles above 6.5 tonnes at weighbridges whole vehicles registered outside the country pay at ports of entry.
Whether Government is collecting this money to reduce congestion or to tax the road users, is not for us to judge but we want to say that a start has been made in this exercise and the results exceed the expectations.
Like we have said already, Government needs the money to carry out rehabilitation of the road infrastructure throughout the country.
For now, the road network in Zambia is the main form of transportation and this means all sorts of vehicles depend on it.
On a daily basis, we see trucks laden with copper en route to the sea ports. Other trucks also make their way into the country, with some of them transiting to neighbouring countries, given the fact that Zambia is surrounded by other countries.
It is this kind of road usage that contributes to the wear and tear of the roads; so that there is need to have a reliable source of funds to carry out maintenance on a regular basis.
We have said before that a well-maintained road network promotes trade and enhances the movement of people from one place to another.
It is, therefore, important that programmes like the Link Zambia 8000 achieves its objectives buoyed by such exercises like the collection of revenue in toll fees.
We realise that the toll fee collection is still in in its infancy and so there will be lessons to be learnt along the way.
We want to urge Government, as it continues to implement this exercise, to make provision for alternative routes for road users who are unable to pay.
We note that for now, Government bills only trucks and buses, but this can be extended to other motor vehicles.
This is an example of a revenue collection exercise that has proved to be a success and we know that there are other sources that Government can exploit.
For example, with the street vendors swarming the corridors of towns and taking up every conceivable space, we want to believe that Government does have another sure source of income.
The informal sector is a goldmine that has not been well-exploited by Government and given the numbers of those that constitute it, some money must be lying there.
We want to say that anyone who earns an income, whether through the formal or informal industry, has a duty to contribute to the coffers of the nation.
However, as long as there is no policy in place to net more people in the informal sector, the national coffers will always fall short to carry out the project.