By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Joel Kaapanda says he will support any proposal that calls for infrastructure charges that pass the costs of road maintenance on to road users. Kaapanda delivered this message to delegates attending a three-day seminar aimed at finding solutions to what he described as the “perpetual under-funding” of the national road network. He said the under-funding of the road sector resulted from an inability to raise the optimal level of funds necessary to effectively maintain the existing road network as well as expand it. Figures given by the Roads Authority and the Road Fund Administration indicate that approximately N$900 million a year is required to manage and expand Namibia’s roads, but only roughly N$697 million was collected in 2006. He referred to measures already taken with the adoption of MWTC2000 project, which led to the commercialisation of the Road Fund Administration, Roads Authority and the Roads Contractor Company. The aim of MWTC2000 was to bring efficiency within the road sub-sector based on sound economic and business principles. “I have no doubt that the road-user-pays principle to a certain degree improved the administration of road funding and the supply of quality roads in our country,” Kaapanda said. However, the amount collected from road user charges by the Road Fund Administration (RFA) still falls short of the targeted amount needed to implement the full scale of activities, including regular and periodic maintenance work. He complained about the current discrepancy in the legal and institutional framework that prevents the RFA from collecting the desired revenues from road user charges. The challenge therefore was to collectively address this legal limitation and devise a new strategy. The new strategy would enable the RFA, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Mines and Energy, Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication to overcome this “dilemma through advocacy and regular consultation”. “My ministry is responsible for the maintenance and infrastructural development of our national road network but is not involved in determining the fuel levy, despite the crucial role transport plays as a multi-sectoral resource,” he noted. Failure to uphold the basic principle of user pays, he warned, will result in increased vehicle operating costs, increased accidents, freight damage and a negative impact on economic growth. “In other words, a sound transport system and its supporting infrastructure is a catalyst to a vibrant business environment and accelerates socio-economic development of any country,” Kaapanda said. Minister of Mines and Energy, Erriki Nghimtina, and the Director General of the National Planning Commission, Helmuth Angula, also attended the seminar titled, “Road Sector Financing – Joint Annual Review”. A wide-ranging group of stakeholders is attending the seminar in line with a government decision to pursue a sector-wide approach to development donor assistance.