Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Fact of the Day: Highway Tolls

When you go through highway tolls in China, it's just a uniformed person sitting in a booth, not with a cash register, but with a black briefcase full of money.

And collecting all that cash has people wondering where that money really goes.

The Chinese who have to pay these tolls are getting tired of having to shell out constantly and no wonder -- a World Bank report says highway tolls in China are one of the most expensive compared to international standards, resulting in high costs for transportation.

The statistics say logistical costs make up 18 percent of the gross domestic product in China in 2010, nearly double that of developed economies.

By the end of 2005, China's toll highways reached 180,000 kilometres, almost 55 percent of the highway network according to a report from the National Audit Office.

In 18 provinces there were 4,328 toll stations that bring in 510 billion RMB ($77.4 billion) for government coffers.

While this is a significant sum, economists say this is not the best way for the government to collect money.

"Toll stations scattered nationwide will block China's developing economy," said Zhang Xiaode, an economic expert at the Chinese Academy of Governance.

However, government officials claim they need to collect tolls because of the lack of sufficient funds to build highways.

But many think China should be shifting its focus on using high-speed rail to transport goods as well as people. This makes sense and is more fuel efficient as well as more environmentally friendly.

Another problem is that the collection of so much cash is so tempting that local governments continue having the tolls to rake in more dough. Some 14.9 billion RMB ($2.2 billion) was collected by 158 illegal tollgates by the end of 2005, while 8.2 billion RMB ($1.2 billion) was claimed from illegal toll price rises, the national audit body said on its website.

Much like other government policies, there are no checks and balances to ensure tolls are not needed anymore or that highways are not needlessly being built.

And so these easy money grabs will continue at the expense of small- and medium-sized enterprises trying to eke out a living.

No wonder a man got some fake military license plates so that he could evade paying tolls when transporting goods.

While he was jailed for this, who is really to blame?

1 comment:

  1. can they install electronic sensors in motor vehicles? with each passage the computer will register its account and bill automatically.