Infrastructure: The word practically screams government. Four syllables, a bit impenetrable. But in fact it’s efficient. It encompasses the environment in which we function. In one word you get roads, bridges, tunnels, interchanges, even sewer lines and networks for drinking water and the port in Baltimore.
Transportation infrastructure is as important in Georgetown as it is anywhere. People who use the roads insist that they have to be provided with roads that would not beat up their cars or have bridges collapse beneath them, with lethal consequences. Parts of the Essequibo Coast are suffering from a flood that resulted from collapsed infrastructure. The Regional Administration refused to heed the warnings that a dam that borders the conservancy was collapsing. Now farmers have lost crops and livestock.
Regrettably, transportation infrastructure across the entire country is suffering from neglect. The need for upkeep and new investment far outstrips the money that has been devoted to it in the national budgets by the Central Government.
Transportation must compete with other expenditures that are also expensive and probably have more fervent advocates, such as defense and health care. The money supports not only the major roadways but also account for half the funding regional authorities devote to their primary roads, but which government cuts from their budgets. Parliament has been appropriating additional funds for transportation to meet critical needs that cost too much for what the trust fund provides.
That’s why Parliament should do the right thing: put aside arbitrary pledges and raise certain taxes such as container taxes which are still to be implemented, and other heavy vehicle taxes whose purchasing power erodes because of inflation.
Gasoline is already heavily taxed but the money does not go to infrastructure. Instead the government uses as part of its earnings in the same way it uses the funds it accrues from its imports.
Yes, there is a risk to the economy in reducing the discretionary income people have to spend by increasing essential costs. Paying more the containers would be essential for the vast majority of consumers. The cost of getting foodstuffs to supermarkets and eateries and new furniture down the road would go up.
The revenue from higher taxes would not be spent foolishly. It would be dedicated to repaving roads, shoring up decades-old bridges, upgrading intersections and building new roads to accommodate an ever-expanding populace.
The United States is grappling with the problem of maintaining its roads and other infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $2.7 trillion is needed in the next seven years to support transportation and other infrastructure to keep the United States competitive. Increasing the gas tax as proposed would generate $170 billion over 10 years, so it is only a small start.
Sadly, Guyana does not have the luxury of such funding. For one it has a small population. It also produces primary products and more than anything else, it has lost almost all of its skills. The work ethic of its people is far different from the Americans with the result that the government feels that whatever it pays is enough for the work the public servants generate.
In Washington DC, Blumenauer, commenting on the issue of higher taxes, said that a wide swath of interests will coalesce behind his proposal, including AAA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the construction and trucking industries. We see the gas tax increase as one that people can sensibly back as cause-and-effect: A little more money in taxes equates to better roads. But this cannot be the same for Guyanese who are over taxed. Tax the big importers who also use the roads.
Infrastructure crumbles slowly until a breakdown comes all at once. Guyana is no stranger to such collapse. It has seen the collapse of sea defences; the collapse of roads and bridges off the beaten track and even the collapse river transport on occasions.
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