Still no clarity on e-tolls – but someone is going to have to pay

 ·26 Feb 2020

The National Treasury has warned that government will have to look at other sources of finance to make up for Gauteng’s e-toll revenue collection.

In the National Budget document published on Wednesday (26 February) treasury said that the controversial tolling system was currently a risk to South Africa’s fiscal outlook.

“Clarity on government’s position on the user-pay principle as it relates to e-tolls (is still needed),” it said.

“Declining e-toll revenue will have to be offset by other measures to repay South African National Roads Agency Limited debt. It could also affect funding for other investment projects.”

Other ‘fiscal risks’ facing South Africa as identified by Treasury include:

  • Insufficient progress on Eskom reforms and its financial position, and demands from other financially distressed state-owned companies;
  • Outcomes of the renegotiation of the existing wage agreement and the following round of wage talks;
  • The Road Accident Fund is government’s second-largest contingent liability after Eskom. A decision on the Road Accident Benefit Scheme Bill is required to pave the way for a more affordable system.

Announcement from Ramaphosa “imminent”

Gauteng Premier David Makhura also side-stepped the controversial topic of e-tolls in his state of the province address on Tuesday (25 February), despite expectations that the issue would finally be addressed.

The premier only mentioned e-tolls once near the end of his more than two-hour-long address, noting that President Cyril Ramaphosa has made a decision on the matter, and would soon make an announcement.

“As the executive council, we made a strong and persuasive case to national government on the e-tolls. I have been assured by president Cyril Ramaphosa that a lasting solution has been found and an announcement by the president is imminent.”

At the end of 2019, finance minister Tito Mboweni said that the system cannot be scrapped unless a replacement revenue source is found.

Mboweni said that financing the GFIP is done on a corporate finance basis and not a project finance basis.

This means that borrowing for toll roads is done on the basis that there is a revenue stream to finance the debt, he said.

Read: New toll prices for South Africa – including e-tolls

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