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Sunday, 21 November 2010

Collective inaction

In a recent debate on Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill which seeks to increase road tax by 50% a few parliamentarians echo arguments we have previously advance on infrastructure development :
"The heavy-duty trucks from South Africa, Namibia and Botswana are the ones destroying our roads but are paying nothing as they travel to Lumwana mine...Why don’t we put tollgates on our roads? These trucks are destroying the whole road from Livingstone to Solwezi. We could collect money from these road destroyers by simply applying the law. Why don’t you government want to collect money?"
- Hon Muntanga
"Why are we so kind to the mines? In countries where they come from, those involved in the mineral extractive industry pay up to 65 per cent in tax and here they want a tax break....When are we going to be rich? As a government, we should not feel pity for those mines...Maybe our generation has no potential to stand up to guys with money and we should leave it for our children"
- Hon Shakafuswa
It sounds like Hon Shakafuswa feels like he is banging against the wall, but realism demands we remember that he was once a defender of mining companies. The main point of course is that the proposed increase of the road tax demonstrates the importance of collective action (or inaction). The reason the government has failed to act on mining companies but is able to increase road tax is because the "drivers" are not as organised as mining companies. One has a powerful lobby the other doesnt. Which explains why Hon Muntanga's cry for the road tax to reflect the marginal cost imposed by various users will find no active government audience.

For previous discussion on the external cost of haulage firms see here, here, here and here.   

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