Long-term effect of fuel levy increase must be considered
The ANC in Gauteng has proposed that consideration be given to increasing the fuel levy ''as an interim measure'' to help the SA National Roads Agency repay the massive debt it incurred for the improvements to major highways in the province.
The proposal, tabled by the ruling party's provincial general council and circulated at the ANC national policy conference in Midrand, is one of several steps recommended to resolve the bitter dispute over e-tolling.
Noting that the dispute - currently being contested in the Constitutional Court - has the potential to damage the government and the party's reputation ''both in terms of electoral support and international credit rating'', the Gauteng ANC says it is essential that the matter be properly handled and that South Africa honours its debts.
Another proposal - far less likely to go down well with business and far less pragmatic - is that Gauteng companies that make ''super-profits'' be asked to make a ''once-off'' contribution to help defray the costs of the freeways improvement project.
The provincial ANC also makes longer-term proposals, such as utilising the government pension fund for infrastructure development, prioritising the upgrading of routes that provide an alternative to toll roads, and the speeding up of public transport initiatives, such as the Bus Rapid Transit System, and the revitalisation of Metrorail.
But it is the proposal to increase the fuel levy to pay for the highway improvements that will attract the most interest.
Together with attempts by the cabinet to engage with the opponents of e-tolling, the adoption of the fuel levy argument by an important component of the ruling party suggests that a sea change on the issue by the government is possible.
But the long-term effects on the economy of increasing the fuel levy need to be thoroughly considered first.