The new year greets motorists with increased toll rates. The increase seems to be a normal ritual every few years. It seems to me that there is no end to the policy of increasing toll rates.
If it is an open-ended agreement, then it is high time that the government be transparent over its agreements with the highway concessionaires. Unless these agreements are open to public scrutiny it is an unfair policy to keep it under wraps and make the motorists pay through their noses.
Of course, no one is going to argue if toll charges have to be levied for the roads built for motorists' convenience. Loans from banks to facilitate the building of these highways have to be paid off - this is a fact of life and is acceptable. But what is unacceptable is that the concessionaire agreements are shrouded in mystery and motorists are completely in the dark about the transactions.
If they are lopsided, then something is wrong. In any transaction, there should be fairness for both sides; it should be a win-win situation. Every right-thinking motorist will accept that toll charges have to be paid. The question is whether they are reasonable or not and if increases are to be made, what should the percentage of increase be?
The government has always given the excuse that it cannot subsidise the shortfall in toll collections. The question we should ask is what is a reasonable increase for toll charges? And when should an increase be acceptable ? Is there a time-frame for an increase to be introduced? Or are these toll rates hikes an arbitrary thing?
The government should be aware that motorists should not be unduly forced to pay toll rates which have been arbitrarily raised without due consideration to road-users. To ensure this is not so, the government must reveal the highway concession agreements. It will also be best if an independent body verify the necessity of any toll rate hike in the future.
Hopefully, the government will listen to the woes of the motorists assuming that it is a caring government.