Meeting to discuss improvement of road toll collection procedure
The improvement of road toll collection procedures is discussed at the meeting hosted by Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko on 16 November.
The head of state remarked that a final decision on a corresponding matter has not been prepared yet. It is supposed that new approaches to the road toll collection will be discussed at the meeting. “Today we will not consider any approaches to the improvement of this procedure as well as a number of related issues,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“People and the society want changes, they are focused on the President and his authorities. Constitutional amendments are a way out. We have recently agreed with the parliament leaders that 70-80% of the President’s authorities will be handed over to the parliament, the government and other agencies, we do not need to break the Constitution. Therefore, the parliament and the government should decide on all issues under consideration. So, make decisions like it is done in the civilized society: the government will work on these issues taking into account all the circumstances, seeing all holes in the budget, if there are any, with the assistance of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, governors, local authorities. Please discuss them in the parliament, work out laws and submit them to the President,” the head of state came up with a new mechanism of work. “Therefore, I said that I was ready to listen to you (this is a very important issue), but you will make decisions.”
According to the President, the road toll is collected to engage all users of roads in the financing of road maintenance. The overall length of Belarusian roads is almost 90,000km, and the density of roads is one of the highest in the CIS.
“By the way, in the past ten years we spent about Br10 million on road maintenance,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “But unlike neighboring countries, we did not collect road toll for the passage of Belarusian automobiles even along the largest and fastest roads.”
More than 4.5 million transport vehicles are registered in Belarus. According to the head of state, in the existing conditions drivers understand that we need money for the maintenance of good roads. “You tell me, and the analysis of public opinion proves it, that the necessity to co-finance road maintenance and repairs goes without doubt. But the mechanism of road toll collection needs improvement,” the President said.
The so-called road toll was introduced in the country in 2014. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, people believe that the mechanism of road toll collection does not take into account the intensity of using a transport vehicle, i.e. the frequency of using roads. In other words, people driving dozens of thousands of kilometers per year and pensioners using vehicles once or twice year for nearby travel pay equally.
“Therefore, we must make a decision on the key issue: how to update the existing procedure, how to make it more understandable and comfortable, how to develop a cost-effective mechanism of participation in the maintenance of our roads,” the President said.
“Yes, we can set exorbitant prices, and people will be unable to pay them. Therefore, it is clear that we need a just procedure. On the other hand, this just procedure will allow people to pay at least something. We can’t make people pay a half of their income or the rest of their money.”
The head of state reiterated that a final decision on the matter should be made at the level of the government and the parliament. “This is how the distribution of authorities in the field will look like. Then we will do more. I promise to distribute authorities honestly and fairly without avoiding responsibility by the All-Belarus People’s Congress. There are not many topical issues for the society: we have already made certain decisions. And you know very well that those decisions were made by the President, and that he was heavily criticized by the society for that. I realized that the country cannot exist without them,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
It is known that two approaches to road toll collection were proposed. The first one envisages the abolition of the existing road toll mechanism and the introduction of a new road toll or duty without reference to the technical inspection. As a result, it will be possible to pay for a month, two months or a year, i.e. for a period when a driver plans to use roads. This mechanism will be supervised with the help of a large-scale information system of photo and video cameras, traffic police, law enforcement and court officials.
Another option also envisages the abolition of the existing road toll mechanism. But road maintenance costs will be included in the cost of fuel.