ROAD maintenance poses a challenging economic conundrum.
On the one hand, leaving this task to the inhouse resources of the Ministry of Works or Local Government guarantees tardiness and elevated costs.
On the other hand, using private contractors creates a built-in incentive to do second-rate work since, the faster the roads degrade, the more money these contractors earn in repairs.
What is the solution? One possibility is to build penalty clauses into contracts for private companies. Thus, if a road develops potholes or cracks within a given period (say, five to ten years without a natural disaster or water leak), the contractor will have to pay the State.
Another possibility is to lease roads to private companies. They will be responsible for maintaining the road, with specific benchmarks given, with the company making money through some kind of toll system.
Technology can resolve issues like payment (made electronically) and exemptions for residents. Contracts will have benchmarks that, if not met, can result in suspension of tolls or the contract itself, hence providing incentives for the company to ensure the road is well-maintained.
Those who object to such de facto privatisation of public roads must explain whether drivers are better off in the present scenario where roads are collapsing because the Government is short of revenue, incompetent and corrupt.
Elton Singh Couva