The Barbados Road Safety Association (BRSA) has come out in full support of the newly elected Barbados Labour Party (BLP) Government’s promise to abolish road tax and replace it with a fee at the gas pump.
In a statement released yesterday, the association welcomed the proposed move, saying “under the proposed system, no one will be able to avoid paying road tax anymore.
“It also ensures a fairer taxation on drivers, as this tax will be proportionate to road usage.”
In its analysis of the promise documented in the BLP’s manifesto, the BRSA also said the move would result in a number of ancillary benefits.
“It will free up the traffic court, lead to shorter queues at the licensing department, owners of vehicles that are off the road for a while will also benefit from this initiative.
“Police will no longer have to check for road tax discs, but would now check for valid insurance and valid drivers’ licences, as the road tax disc can be replaced by an insurance disc and the driver’s licences be made to be carried on the person,” the BRSA statement said.
“From a road safety perspective, it will take some vehicles off the road, as drivers will reconsider the necessity of the intended trip, weighed against more to be spent at the pump. This also will help reduce traffic congestion and pollution in the environment.
“Fewer vehicles on the roads can also lead to less aggressive driving, less speeding drivers, less distracted and impaired drivers and so a reduction in accidents,” it added.
The road safety organization also said the initiative could also contribute to the development of a green economy by encouraging more drivers and small businesses to purchase electric vehicles and reduce pollution of the environment.
Earlier, the privately owned transport sector welcomed the announcement. Head of the Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) Roy Raphael has called the promise a step in the right direction while pointing out that public service vehicle owners had to contend with annual payments of over $2,000 for road tax and permit fees, as well as approximately $30,000 for insurance.
He argued that while operators may have to pay more at the pumps, it would be less burdensome, especially if the permit fees were removed.
However, immediately after the BLP promise to abolish road taxes was made, the then Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley had dismissed it as fake, while questioning how the Mia Mottley-led BLP would achieve the proposed road tax plan and its replacement.
“How are they going to get it done? But of course it’s another fake promise,” Lashley said.
“We have to wait and see. It’s like an election gimmick as far as I am concerned,” he added at the time, while suggesting that the BLP should look instead to further strengthen the Road Traffic Act to ensure road users pay the tax.
However, in introducing the BLP’s plan, economist Clyde Mascoll had said that in the spirit of equity, commercial vehicles which are more than average users of the roads would be required to pay more under the BLP’s petrol proposal.
“We currently have something called a road tax. Do you know that road tax for a commercial vehicle is only $400 while those of you who have bigger vehicles have to pay $900 and all sort of thing? That has to change because the tax does not make sense,” Mascoll had argued.
“We are abolishing the road tax. However we can’t be irresponsible, so what we are going to do is shift the tax towards the business community. Those people who use the road most should pay most. It is called equity and justice. We are going to transfer the road tax to a small tax on fuel so those that are on the road all day with heavy vehicles would pay proportionally,” he added, evoking sustained applause from BLP supporters during the just ended election campaign.
The BLP economist further explained that the manifesto pledges were the product of two years of research, and all of its costs had been accounted for.