Road toll won't
affect tourism in Dubai: UN official
1 February 2005
ABU DHABI The planned road toll by the Dubai authorities will not affect the economy of the city as a world trade and tourism hub, as has been widely speculated, a top United Nations official told Khaleej Times yesterday.
There have been speculations that the introduction of the controversial plan would affect the performance of the city as a business centre as many will try to avoid being taxed, by either skipping the city or doing their businesses elsewhere. Many residents say the plan will only increase the cost of living in Dubai even further. Others, speaking from an economic point of view, say that it may harm Dubai businesses by discouraging people from travelling to shop in Dubai.
According to the plan, all vehicles entering the emirate will have to pay the road tax. If it goes ahead, it will be the first such toll system in place in any of the member-states of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council (AGCC). It is aimed at reducing the major traffic problems in Dubai.
Work on the toll gates is due to start in April, and would be operational by January 2006. They will be installed on roads leading to Dubai from Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. The minimum toll during off-peak hours is expected to be Dh3.
The UN official, in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Environment 2005 Exhibition and Conference (Enviro 2005), said that before introducing such a system, the Dubai authorities should explain it to the public. Road tax is a worldwide system, and it is up to the authorities of any city to introduce it, depending on the cost of maintenance and safety system, but the authorities in Dubai should explain this to the public. You have to take certain measures to meet the maintenance cost and ensure safety procedures. After all, the authorities should ensure that the system is efficient, Mr Chowdhury stated.
Responding to a question regarding road safety in the UAE, the UN official expressed concern over the high rate of road accidents in the country. The safety record here is a matter of concern, he stated. On how the international organisation can help in this, he said the UAE could be picked up as a UN training centre for road safety in the region. He said the issue would be discussed with the authorities concerned in the UAE, promising full support from the organisation.
Road safety should be considered an important element for development of sustainable transportation. Every day, thousands of people are killed, maimed and injured while using a mode of transportation. According to UN statistics, 1.2 million people are known to die only in road accidents worldwide every year. Millions of others sustain injuries, with many suffering permanent disabilities. Road traffic injuries cost developing countries nearly two per cent of their GNP, more than the total development aid received by them, Mr Chowdhury said.
He said the prevention of road accidents must be pursued vigorously and immediate policy measures must include the development and management of road infrastructure, provision of safer vehicles, law enforcement, provision of health and hospital services, urban and rural planning.