There is a clear plan laid out by government and significant investment proposed in terms of South Africa’s road network infrastructure development, which is positive for the country’s future development, as it is integral to growing the economy.
“The fundamentals of any country, or city, is its road infrastructure, and it is important that it is developed as comprehensively and quickly as possible,” says advisory firm KPMG head of infrastructure and partner De Buys Scott.
Developing roads provides a means of transport, paving the way for power generation and social infrastructure, such as education and healthcare, to be developed, he adds.
Scott says the national toll roads and corridors are not only well-developed and maintained but are also working efficiently. However, the rural road networks are under significant pressure and face considerable challenges.
“The national fiscus is limited; therefore, South Africans can expect to see an increase in the user-tax principle in terms of road use,” says Scott.
South Africans need to realise that national and local infrastructure cannot solely be funded by the country’s budget, and reducing tax collections in a declining economy means that maintaining existing and developing new roads is a significant issue, he adds.
Scott stresses that, looking forward, “South Africa has its work cut out”, as funding for its primary projects, such State-owned utility Transnet’s R307.5-billion Market Demand Strategy, is critical.
“The development of this project needs to take place as soon as possible, as it will, inter alia, lessen the burden of freight trucks and traffic on the motor highways.”
He notes that reducing freight trucks will, in turn, lead to a decrease in road maintenance downtime and alleviate the pressure on the fiscus, which will ease the burden on the taxpayer.
Further, he adds that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA’s) R58-billion deal to acquire 600 new trains will also reduce the pressure on the road networks.
However, he says that small, rural municipalities will continue to struggle, as the bulk of funding is being used for the aforementioned projects.
“The long-term savings achieved with regard to road infrastructure development, owing to fewer accidents and decreased maintenance, should then be used to develop the lagging rural infrastructure,” says Scott, adding that rural infrastructure development will result in a decrease in urbanisation, with cities being the long-term beneficiaries if less overpopulated.
Scott enthuses that PRASA’s metro train fleet replacement project, Transnet’s freight rail plans, the existing national road network upgrades, among others, are achievements that need to be acknowledged and, therefore, there is potential for growth.
In five years’ time, significant benefits should be possible as a result of all these investments, which should ease the burden on the taxpayer, he concludes.