By Ndafadza Madanha
WHEN Finance minister Mthuli Ncube announced his budget statement last year he underscored that ‘a road is an economy’ capable of transforming economic activities and lives around it.
In the budget statement Ncube unveiled an ambitious $910.4 million package to rehabilitate the country’s notorious rickety road infrastructure which according to a 2016/17 National Roads Condition and Inventory Report, carried out on all public roads identified 98 049km of network, of which 30% is in the poor to very poor condition, 40% in fair condition, 17% in good condition whilst only 8% was in very good condition.
The package comprised of fiscal resources to the tune of $381.3 million and Road Fund resources of $272.8m toward road infrastructure. Another portion was set to be raised through the issuance of an infrastructure bond to finance the Harare- Masvingo- Beitbridge road.
In order to reverse the slide of the road network government targets investments during 2019 into the road sector to cover the following dualisation of 135 km; upgrading of 646 km of gravel to bituminous surfacing.
The programme will also include regravelling of 483 km; Construction of 22 bridges countrywide; and Upgrading of National Parks roads.
Already a significant amount has been released towards road rehabilitation projects and notable improvements on the road network have been achieved.
These projects will go a long way in boosting agriculture as a well-maintained road network is crucial when infrastructural issues relating to agricultural productivity are being discussed.
Boosting agricultural productivity can therefore help to address a raft of problems besetting the country notably food insecurity and hunger, poverty, and economic competitiveness.
A study by the Africa Development Bank (AFDB) indicated that a major determinant of agricultural productivity growth is lack of adequate infrastructure in particular roads.
Road Infrastructure is a key contributor to productivity mainly by reducing transaction costs in input and output markets, as well as better integrating markets within regions.
Roads link farmers not only with their input markets but also with their product markets. Lack of efficient transportation links and substandard roads decrease farmers’ margins by increasing the cost of inputs and reducing their accessibility to their product market.
The current state of the Zimbabwe road networks is in dire straits and a scaling-up of investment is badly needed to confront the problem.
Equally local roads continue to lag behind other parts of the world in the quality of its road network, which impacts not only agriculture but all other sectors of the regional economy.
AFDB notes the state of the roads act as a constraint to conducting trade at all levels, both among African countries and at the international level, since the premium it adds to transaction costs renders African goods more expensive and less competitive in the global marketplace.