Land Transport Sector

Given Fiji’s ever increasing motor vehicle population, the last ten to twelve year period in particular has contributed hugely to: 1. Increased Fossil Fuel Imports (around $1.2b per annum) 2.
30 Nov 2014 13:05
Land Transport Sector
FRA chief executive Neil Cook, right.

Given Fiji’s ever increasing motor vehicle population, the last ten to twelve year period in particular has contributed hugely to:

1. Increased Fossil Fuel Imports (around $1.2b per annum)

2. Increased Green House Gases (GHG) and Carbon Dioxide emissions

3. Infrastructure constraints/lack of capacity within urban/suburban corridors

4. Increased Engine Idling in Traffic

5. Increased traffic accidents

6. Reduced parking spaces in urban areas

7. Increased stress on motorists

8. Increased traffic

9. Increased NCD’s and Health Risks

Furthermore, the much-anticipated increase in projected economic activity and growth in coming years will no doubt contribute immensely to the existing problems and create further challenges, especially in the land transport sector.

More than 60 per cent of all imported fossil fuel is consumed by the Transport Sector; currently more than $700 million (including aircraft), out of which almost $300 million is for the land transport sector alone.

Existing LTA vehicle registration figures show that approximately 7500 vehicles will be registered and populate our roads further in 2014.

This figure could easily rise to 8000 new registrations in 2015 and beyond. In economic comparison, there is hardly any number of kilometres of new roads or lanes constructed this year.


The issue

These are extremely important challenges that have either been ignored or overlooked by government in the 2015 Budget.

Even with increased funding for road infrastructure, the levels are hugely inadequate and actually Fiji will face a much worse position with regards to the challenges mentioned above, if current trends continue.

Sadly, we have all the basic statistics and many forum discussions have taken place, but there seems to be no real urgency in giving them any priority, to curb the existing problems, prepare for the future and ensure we have a sustainable land transport sector.

Fiji’s challenges of sustainable transport are growing in scale and urgency, and a new level of response and shift is needed, with serious and drastic policies.

Inadequate transport also remains a key reason for the persistence of poverty and inequality.

Moreover, as Fiji focuses on inclusive growth for all, develops further and populations rise, the scale and complexity of its transport needs also rise.

Already, transport demand has exceeded the capacity of the transport system resulting in congestion and inefficiencies.

No doubt, the scale of investment required for sustainable transport in our developing Fiji is enormous, and represents a great challenge for the years ahead.


Some global statistics

For developing countries in Asia and Latin America, estimates of lost time and increased transport costs due to congestion, generally range from two per cent to five per cent of GDP.

In some individual cities, such as Sao Paulo, this reaches 10 per cent of city GDP.

In the debate about global warming, only limited attention has been given to transport-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Yet studies indicate that, if present trends continue, by 2035, the transport sector will become the single largest GHG emitter accounting for 46 per cent of global emissions, and that by 2050 this will reach 80 per cent.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, transport is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions from energy consumption, and accounted for 29 per cent of total emissions in 2007.

This issue is linked to the phenomenon of rapid motorization that accompanies rising living standards and incomes in developing countries.

It is also because not enough attention has been given to using low carbon modes of transport, including public transport and non-motorised transport in cities.

Motorisation and lack of road safety have also led to road crash fatalities and injuries reaching epidemic proportions, with developing countries accounting for 90 per cent of the global toll of 1.3 million road crash deaths each year.


For Fiji

Therefore, for Fiji, it is imperative that we embrace and promote the avoid-shift-improve paradigm for addressing congestion and vehicle emissions.

Avoid the need for travel by better physical planning and logistics, shift to energy efficient transport modes, and improve energy efficiency through use of better technologies.

Our dependence on fossil fuels will no doubt continue to increase unless new policies and direction are given prominence.

Introducing zero import duty on pure electric vehicles (called PEV’s, Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEVs), or Battery Electric Vehicles-BEV’s), charging stations and related components in April 2014 and now stretching that to include Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV’s – those with both, an engine and a battery system working in synergy) in the 2015 Budget, is a good start.

However, that needs to be probed and strategized further by government itself, if we seriously intend to attract any genuine attention, encouragement and investment.

A new industry is begging to be born and government support is vital.

Fiji, therefore, in planning for a sustainable transport system under its Green Growth initiative, should focus its attention towards developing an Electric Vehicle (EV) Industry.

This can be through practical, innovative and dynamic policies and incentives that would contribute toward:

1. Mitigating our Dependence on Fossil Fuels in the land transport sector.

2. Protecting our Environment.

3. Reducing Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s).

4. Stimulating investment.

5. Setting up of new Manufacturing/Assembly Facilities.

6. Creating Employment Opportunities.

7. Encouraging Market Acceptance of EV’s through sound investment policies.


With PEV’s or BEV’s, there are savings of between 40 and 50 per cent, comparing fossil fuel use to grid charging costs and of course there will be demand for sufficient electricity supply and the need for a smart grid.

Many models and technologies are now emerging globally, some being very successful, in finding alternative methods to reduce reliance on the utility grid, such as mitigating grid use with solar power and other renewables.


FEA policies

In Fiji, energy is governed exclusively by Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA), utilising archaic policies and laws.

FEA continues to burden new investments by applying these policies rather than carving out new directions and changes in policies.

Again, there seems to be no real urgency and vision to innovate towards a smarter grid and future sustainability.

To a higher extent, to accommodate new renewable energy plants is becoming more and more difficult due to its limitations with grid connections.

FEA continues to purchase diesel generators to meet the demand, meaning further reliance on fossil fuels and emissions for years to come.

This cognition must change quickly if we are to adopt more efficient green transport models so that FEA (or new players) can guarantee consistent and sufficient energy supply for such shift to new technologies for a sustainable green transportation system.

The greatest fear of all, not only for FEA and government, but also the consumers and stakeholders at large, is that we if don’t respond now with proper planning, it could well be a case similar to that of our road transport economics.

It will be where we will see unprecedented energy supply issues, higher costs, higher growth and investment risks, which then will all become difficult to mitigate.

As a developing country, we have a great opportunity to leapfrog to a greener future of less motorisation and more energy efficient and sustainable transport systems, as is being introduced and experienced all over the world today.

In Fiji, when it comes to land transportation, it is normally taken for granted that “all is well”, and often prioritised last.

This perception cannot continue if we are to make any real difference in our small island state.

The reality is that if we don’t, masses of people will not be able to move efficiently and effectively and as a consequence, there will be dents in our GDP, apart from the chaos, frustration and increased costs that it will bring for all stakeholders.

This is already happening and will only continue to worsen!

– Arvind Maharaj is the chief executive of Tebara Transport and an active member of the Suva Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


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