SUNBIZ

Balancing Needs, Reliability As Well As Affordability

Building roads, bridges or crossings to rural villages and communities provides new and improved access to health, education and jobs. In providing this infrastructure, we at FRA are faced with
07 Feb 2015 10:28
Balancing Needs, Reliability As Well As Affordability

Building roads, bridges or crossings to rural villages and communities provides new and improved access to health, education and jobs.

In providing this infrastructure, we at FRA are faced with some challenging decisions.

‘How much to spend’ is one of these. Our approach is to try and agree a balance between needs, reliability and affordability.

 

Reliable transport connections

International experience has shown that when a road, bridge or crossing is built to provide new access to a previously isolated village, the benefits to the community can be substantial.

The villagers quickly become reliant on this new opportunity.

People in the village get jobs elsewhere, or start to produce goods to sell at market. They earn an income and become more and more economically active.

This new activity might involve using the new incomes to borrow money to expand businesses or improve quality of life for families.

In quite a short time, people become dependent on this new income.

So if the bridge or crossing, is not strong enough to withstand a flood or storm event, and becomes unusable, people are at risk of being cut off from their jobs or the market.

Buses and taxi services are lost. Even in a short period of time incomes are threatened. Some may even lose their jobs and find themselves struggling with loan and debt repayments.

It is not surprising to find many people in these situations choose to move away, threatening the viability of the village and fragmenting the community.

 

What is reliable access?

FRA has a mandate to ensure roads contribute to the continuing development of Fiji and all Fijians.

We will not risk building a road, or bridge, or jetty, which will not last. We will not go for the quick and cheap fix. It is not a fair use of people’s money, and can eventually destroy livelihoods.

We do our best to find the right balance between the ‘level of service’ required of a road and affordability.

When we make that assessment we try to take into account the short and longer term needs of the communities.

Once we agree the desired ‘level of service’ then the design follows and construction costs are determined through competitive tendering. Our costs are transparent.

Apart from our FRA management, all fixed overhead costs are included in the project budget.

This includes the contractor’s machinery and equipment as well as labour at market rates.

Other infrastructure providers can internalise these and other overhead costs within operating budgets.

This makes the project appear cheaper.

Transport is inextricably linked to better living standards.

In the end poor quality infrastructure can become more of a liability than an asset. High maintenance and repair costs combined with unreliable service is a downward spiral that many of us are familiar with.

At FRA we are working very hard to get Fiji’s road networks onto a long term stable footing so that people and businesses can invest with assurity.

This will support the sustained growth of the economy, unhindered by fragile transport connections.

Standing by the principles of quality and reliability will take resolve and hard work.

But when you see how closely related transport reliability is to improving living standards and economic development then the logic is unquestionable.

– Neil Cook is the CEO of the Fiji Roads Authority. This is his regular column which will be published by the Fiji Sun on Saturdays.

 



Fijisun Ad Space


Get updates from the Fiji Sun, handpicked and delivered to your inbox.


By entering your email address you're giving us permission to send you news and offers. You can opt-out at any time.


Subscribe-to-Newspaper