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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Who should pay for roads (article)



Read the article and write an essay on the following topic in 250 words:

The number of cars keeps increasing, so road systems should be expanded. Some people think the government should pay for it, while others think the car owners should pay for it. What’s your opinion?

The fast pace of economic development in many countries has enabled more and more people to own personal vehicles like cars.  This situation has necessitated the need to create additional infrastructure to accommodate the escalating traffic on the roads, which require huge investments.  However, many governments have lagged behind in this area due to insufficient funds.  In the meantime, the scarcity of highways, flyovers and by-pass roads and the overloading of existing roads have created severe traffic congestions and accidents are on the increase. 

In order to address this crisis situation many governments are considering the possibility of making car owners pay for the development of road infrastructure.  People who favour governments’ stand on this issue argue that since it is the motorists who need superior roads to drive comfortably, they should pay for it.  However, many others believe that government alone should shoulder the responsibility of developing roads.

From a government perspective, increasing car ownership by individuals has flooded the existing roads and necessitated the construction of a larger road system.  Newer highways, bridges, flyovers and by-pass roads have to be built to control the traffic congestions, which require huge funds.  Due to commitments from other essential sectors, governments are often not able to afford such enormous capital investment.  Hence, they believe, car owners should bear the cost of road development. 

Since the public are willing to pay for utilities like water and electricity, government questions the logic in that argument that roads need to be funded by public finances.

A successful methodology adopted by many governments both in the developed and developing countries is to assign private infrastructure firms to develop road system and allow them to collect toll from vehicle owners who use such roads, in order to meet the cost. 

Charging higher taxes from car owners to be used for the construction and upkeep of new road system has also been adopted in some countries.  This would take the pressure off the government and they can concentrate on more essential utilities for the public. 

Again, there are special lanes which can be used by drivers who want to avoid crowded lanes, by paying a certain fee especially during the peak hours.  This system has already been introduced in certain western countries aspay-as-you-go lanes’ or ‘Lexus lanes’, where rich motorists can bypass traffic jams.  This money would be used for infrastructural development.

There are people who oppose the policy of the government and suggest that any welfare government has the obligation to provide the basic infrastructural facilities, such as roads, to the citizens.  It is unreasonable for government to stay away from this responsibility, arguing that it does not have sufficient funds to do it.  Instead, government should avail funds from other sources and improve road systems for the people.  Ideally, they could take loans from financial institutions like World Bank or International Monitory Fund.  Many governments are already doing it, especially in the developing world.

Moreover, many believe that car owners pay various types of vehicle, road and fuel taxes to the government and it is unfair to burden them further with additional taxes or road toll.  Increase in the number of vehicles automatically suggests greater taxes, which can be used for the improvement of roads.

Both sides have valid arguments to substantiate their point of view.  However, considering to enormous burden that governments need to shoulder in various sectors, I would support the view that it is time that citizens be responsible for the development of road systems.

(584 words)