Monday, March 15, 2010

One for the road

Minister of Transport, Anatol Salaru estimates that rehabilitating Moldova's road network would cost EUR 4bn, money which Moldova simply doesn't have.

Moldova's roads, with one or two notable exceptions (e.g. the Chisinau - Leuseni road) were in an appalling state even before the ravages of the recently ended winter.  Moreover, the cost of repairing even a two-lane highway is quite terrifying - the rehabilitation of the Sarateni - Soroca road (82.4km) is expected to cost $133m.  That's about $1.61m (EUR 1.17m) per kilometre.

So what can Salaru do?  Where can he start, given his tiny budget of 100m lei?  Here's some ideas:

1.  Call in the private sector.  Legislate / regulate to allow the construction and operation of tolled highways by private sector companies.  This should be sufficient to promote the development of new highways along arterial routes radiating out from Chisinau.

2.  Empower local authorities to collect taxes and use them to repair local roads.  All other things being equal, decisions taken at a local level on which roads to build / repair and how should be of a higher quality than those taken centrally.  Locals have a vested interest in good roads.

3.  Use some of your budget to aggressively 'splodge' pot-holes in national roads.  It's neither a perfect nor a permanent solution, but it does save lives and axles.  Use the rest of the budget on fluorescent paint to mark out road boundaries and make roads navigable at night.

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