SUVA, Fiji (Feb. 21) - It's plain to everyone who travels - that is most of us - that Fiji's roads are in poor condition.

In some places they are all but impassable. Bus services have been halted in various parts of the country as the operators cannot keep up with the cost of repairs to their fleets due to damage inflicted by often shocking roads. Deliveries are slow or non-existent, especially in rural areas but even in the towns and cities there are roads that taxis and even buses refuse to travel.

The recent weather would have much to do with this, but it's a problem that has been growing worse over a number of years.

As the number vehicles in the country spirals the pressure on the road system has proved to be just too much.

The Public Works Department, which is charged with maintaining much of the country's road system, lacks the money and the manpower to keep up with needed repairs. So the roads deteriorate. Children walk to and from school, workers are late because of traffic snarl-ups or because the bus just didn't arrive.

The flow-on effects of deteriorating roads are many and varied. The economic cost is probably higher than we might ever imagine.

So surely some, if not all, of the money collected by the Land Transport Authority from road users in fees, fines and licenses should be used to help keep our roads in at least passable condition.

The passengers, drivers and companies who use these roads are entitled to expect something in return for the fees and fares they have to pay just to go about their daily business.

By all means we should insist that vehicles - particularly public service vehicles - are maintained in safe and healthy condition. And let’s continue to crack down on the polluters who belch filthy smoke into the atmosphere, spoiling everything they pass near.

Indeed, clean safe vehicles should be a condition to be satisfied before licenses can be granted.

But in our zeal to license buses, minibuses, trucks, carriers, taxis and cars have we not forgotten something? If the roads these vehicles have to travel on are in such bad condition, we can hardly expect the vehicles to remain intact for long. Better roads mean safer passengers and better roads might also mean lower costs for all concerned.

February 22, 2006


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