The government authority that has responsibility for maintaining and improving local roads will receive an annual fund of up to $10 million for that task, if legislation made public this week is approved by lawmakers.
The National Roads Authority [Amendment] Bill seeks to establish two revenue streams that would provide a maximum of $10 million each year to pay for the authority’s operating costs “in particular, the construction, upgrading, rehabilitation and maintenance of public roads.”
The revenues are proposed to be taken from fuel import duty charged and collected on gasoline and diesel with the exception of duties charged to diesel fuel imported by Caribbean Utilities Company. In addition fees collected for motor vehicle drivers licenses will go toward the road maintenance fund, referred to the bill as the “road fund.”
The bill, if approved, will provide revenues for the roads authority for the current budget year which ends this month.
The government made a temporary provision to fund the roads authority ahead of the current year’s budget. Finance Minister Marco Archer said last year that the $10 million taken from the taxes, which typically goes into government’s general fund budget, would be given to the National Roads Authority specifically for road maintenance and construction.
The $10 million, plus additional losses from the reduction of the fuel duty charged on the importation of CUC, cost the government about $13 million in annual tax revenues during the current year.
The roads authority has sustained major staff losses due to government budget cuts over the last few years.
The roads authority’s budget was slashed from $8.3 million in the 2011/12 fiscal year to $6 million in 2012/13.
As a result of the budget cuts, in October 2012 the board and management submitted a report to the ministry including their “recommendations for right-sizing the NRA to make the authority more efficient and effective going forward.”
In 2013, according to authority board minutes, there was real concern that the NRA’s more than 100 workers at the time could lose their jobs.
According to the minutes, “In regards to the general morale and mood of the staff, it was noted that most employees are unsure of their work status and some employees are actively seeking employment elsewhere.”
Then-Acting NRA managing director, Paul Parchment, who eventually took over the job full-time, said staff morale was shaken but there was “still relative uncertainty with regard to the future funding issues of the authority.”