Can We Pull This Off?

We’ve been complaining about how hotter and hotter each summer has become lately. We’ve been complaining about the horrendous traffic jams all over the metropolis. We’ve been complaining about how rude and stupid most (if not all… I am not wont to generalize, but it has really gotten to me lately) of the public utility vehicle drivers are in this country. We’ve been complaining about the sorry state of our roads, moaning and whining about how it would be much easier to drive a car in the moon than here in Metro Manila.

Well, an insightful and thought provoking article written by the noted Economist Blogger, Greg Mankiw, in October 2006 proposed the need for governments to raise or levy a higher gas tax. It is, by no means, a radical proposition for this has been floated around for so many years now.

I am not exactly and thoroughly familiar with the details, but a very similar model is currently being implemented and enforced in Singapore. There, as I heard, the City-state imposes various kinds of taxes (import duties, road tax), licenses, and fees before one can get his newly bought car on the road. I am not particularly sure about a certain gas tax being levied, but I feel there is one imposed.

Which is why it’s a not so traffic congested and polluted country.

What this does is that it filters the number of people who can actually buy and take out the car into the streets. Hence, lesser cars on the road. Which translates to less traffic congestion. Which translates to less chances of being rammed by an irresponsible and reckless driver. Which translates to less gasoline consumption wasted being stuck in traffic caused by the sheer volume of cars at any given time as well as jams caused by the slimpest car-on-car collision (a stalled vehicle in EDSA or a two-car smash-up in South Expressway can create the most horrible jams in the city). Which translates to less pollutants and gases that contribute to global warming.

How much do we end up saving collectively, as a nation, by paying a higher price to get cars on the road? Again, I am no economist and have no access to hard facts that will quantify this dire issue. But just to give you an idea, take a look at these numbers (applicable to the United States, of course).

Our government will need to address so many things before we can actually go down this path that will give us so much long-term gain. How will it affect the thousands of public utility vehicles (i.e. the jeepneys, the taxis, the tricycles — 3 wheeled passenger bikes, the buses) which help convey millions of Filipinos to and from work and home? We only have limited mass transit systems available (you can count everything in one hand) while the government invests on creating bigger, longer, and wider road networks (which means we are preparing for the accommodation of more cars on the road).

Implementation and enforcement of laws that will make the public toe the line is another question. Plus, maybe, the inherent willingness of the motored-multitude to give up the chance of driving an automobile (Filipinos are suckers for cars — what with a thriving car accessories businesses in Banawe, Evangelista, Araneta, etc.).

It is something that we must plan for as early as now. But, do we have the resolve to do it? Much less, succeed in doing? I don’t even think the higher-ups are talking about it. Or have even thought about it.



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