Africa Moyo Business Reporter
A weak public transport system, particularly in urban areas, is responsible for the siphoning of the much-needed foreign currency as citizens import cars to take them to work, analysts say.
This comes as our sister publication Business Weekly in this week’s edition reports that about $4,5 billion was used since dollarisation to import mainly second-hand vehicles from Japan.
Zimbabwe is currently entangled in a foreign payments pickle due to shortages of foreign currency, resulting in intermittent supplies of fuel and some products as manufacturers stop their machines for some time.
The coming in of many vehicles, has piled pressure on road infrastructure and demand for foreign currency to import fuel.
Town planning expert Percy Toriro told The Herald Business yesterday that having more people driving personal vehicles to work is unsustainable.
“Zimbabwe is among the very few countries in the world where it is fashionable to drive cars to work. It is not a good development in itself because you crowd your roads,” said Mr Toriro.
“Further, Zimbabwe is the only country and Harare is the only city in the region that entirely depends on a private public transport system.
“The problems associated with that are for all to see as roads are congested and overused, there is a battle for parking space, there is a huge demand for fuel as many engines are running at any given time.”
The importation of second-hand vehicles has piled pressure on the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), which approves foreign payments as a measure of preventing unnecessary use of foreign currency.
Although statistics were not immediately available on how much fuel is consumed in the country per month, Government recently indicated that it plans to increase the Harare-Feruka pipeline’s capacity from the current six million litres per (180 million litres per month) day to 7,5 million litres.
Further, second-hand vehicles are merely reconditioned before shipment to Zimbabwe, making them prone to regular servicing.
The spare parts are imported, putting more pressure on demand for foreign currency.
Mr Toriro said to conserve foreign currency and restore some modicum of order on the country’s roads, it was prudent for authorities to resuscitate the urban transport system.
Zimbabwe deregulated the urban transport system in 1992 to allow anyone with a large or small bus to ferry commuters.
However, Government did not say the size of buses one would deploy on the roads. A proper urban transport system should have a mix of trains, large and small buses.
Said Mr Toriro: “We need to resuscitate the urban transport system. After deregulation, people opted to invest in cheaper small buses, which are not sustainable.”
One train can carry commuters that can be carried by 20 to 30 buses, and potentially replace 200 small buses.
With expectations high that the economy would transform in the next few years, there are fears that more citizens will get more disposable income and want to buy vehicles, putting pressure on road and parking infrastructure.
For more on Government’s plans to curb second hand car imports get a copy of this week’s Business Weekly.
SOURCE : THE HERALD