Tinashe Makichi Business Reporter
Government has applied for a $25 million loan facility from two local financial institutions to be used for the acquisition of new equipment for road maintenance this year while 30 new tollgates will be opened by the end of the year in order to boost revenue inflows. Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Obert Mpofu yesterday told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development that Government is concerned with the state of the roads.
“Government is in negotiations with local financial institutions in a bid to revive its road maintenance unit. Recapitalisation of the units will be done through the acquisition of new and state-of-the-art equipment to meet the demands of the current state of roads.
“Government pointed out the importance of the road construction department but the major challenge has been the availability of obsolete equipment. However, we approached IDBZ and CBZ Bank applying for a loan,” said Minister Mpofu.
Minister Mpofu said Government also intends to complete the construction of 30 toll gates by the end of the year in a bid to increase revenue inflow channels.
ZINARA is currently working on completing 10 tollgates and discussions are at an advanced stage on the levying of vehicles in urban centres.
“Projects that involve road construction and maintenance require a lot of capital and in our bid to raise revenue inflows we are targeting 30 tollgates by year-end. We have been engaging city council leadership deliberating on the modalities of urban tollgates.
“Just like South Africa we understand the move will face some resistance from the community but we hope we will sail through. Of course there are processes that should be followed to get a consensus,” said Minister Mpofu.
While computerisation has been emphasised as key to successful road fund management, tolling has also brought many benefits to the country, including self-sufficient tollgates and ring-fenced cash to repay the DBSA loan and employment creation under the Infralink project.
The tolling arrangements made by Government have also enabled or facilitated the procurement of 80 motorised graders to repair 30 500 kilometres of rural roads.
He added that recapitalisation and retooling road construction departments is on its own a potential employer.
“We are planning to set up different stations in all provinces and our main aim is to utilise the available expertise in the country and I am sure you know that there are a lot of civil engineers in the country who want jobs.”
The cost of repairing the country’s road network is expected to balloon to over $4,2 billion by the end of the year from the $2,7 billion last recorded in 2009, as the infrastructure deficit widens, piling pressure on Treasury.
Government has been told by different economic experts to rehabilitate its transport infrastructure to improve trade facilitation and reduce transport costs amid indications that the cost of repairing the country’s transport infrastructure could have nearly doubled during the decade-long period of economic challenges.