10 reasons why the toll charge should be paid and 10 reasons why it shouldn’t be paidBy Roland QafokuThe day when the Durres-Kukes-Morina road was inaugurated, a Serbian journalist wrote an analysis called “Serbia finally has access to sea”. It was Serbia’s century old dream to have access to the Adriatic Sea. In this article, he wrote that the journey from Serbia to Durres lasted only a few hours, recalling the long saga of 1914 or 1916, when the journey to Albania, which had no roads, had led to thousands of victims for the Serbian army as a result of the weather conditions. 170 km long, with 4 lanes, 25 meters wide, equipped of 27 bridges and the tunnel of Kalimash 4.5 km long, the longest one in the Balkans, only 4 hours were needed to travel from Tirana to Pristina. The Albanian road was considered in and outside Albania’s borders as the miracle of the Albanian infrastructure.But, could this road be left like this? Could it be left without maintenance? Could it be left in the hands of those who started to destroy it cutting the side barriers to use it as a footpath for their mules? Putting political reasons, the protest and the violence used by protesters and police aside, there are at least 10 reasons why the road should be taxed, but at the same time, there are also 10 other reasons why the road should not be taxed. It’s like a pharmaceutical scale, where the pharmacist weighs the grams of medication needed by the patient. If we weigh these 10 reasons, we realize that taxation and non-taxation are at balance and every other government would find it difficult to opt for the one or the other. We’re ranking these 10 reasons for each argument.10 REASONS WHY THE TAX SHOULD BE PAID In each country of the world, the use of a highway is associated with a charge. As a result, the introduction of a charge for this road would be a normal thing to do, if it had a value which would be affordable for the Albanian consumer. Nine years after the inauguration, the state of this highway has started to deteriorate. Thus, it is necessary to introduce a tax and maintain the road. The road needs someone in charge of it for a particular period of time. This person responds in the case of damages, blocking of the road or any other problems which may be encountered at every season of the year. We cannot have a highway that meets standards with damaged parts. This is achieved once everyone pays the tax which will be spent for the maintenance of the road. The construction of uncompleted parts such as bridges, underpasses or branches of the highway, make up a very important element and this can be achieved only if a company is in charge of their construction. As a result, this can only be achieved through the application of the toll charge. The opening of secondary roads by villagers of the area, without respecting any criteria and by endangering the lives road users, must be urgently put to an end! This is only normalized through the application of the tax. The tax on the road was conceived by Berisha’ government after the highway was built and as such, it fell within the concept of how a road is maintained. Thus, neither Berisha’s government, nor Rama’s government can accuse each other for the introduction of the toll charge. What they contest is the amount of tax that should apply on it, but they don’t contest the very concept of introducing a toll charge on the road. The connection of the highway with other roads of Albania and Kosovo, is another important element. It would be a lot better if the Durres-Kukes-Morina highway joined the highway that starts in Durres and continues in the south of Albania. This is why the right elements of this road should be built, in order for it to be considered as a North-South completed highway. The tax that should be paid by residents of Kukes must be smaller than others. The payment that foreigners who come to Albania make, is part of the revenues from tourism. Thus, a tourist cannot see Albania as a country which, besides the sea and sand, also offers a free road. Thus, it is more than normal for tourists to pay.10 REASONS WHY THE CHARGE SHOULD NOT BE PAID This highway is not just a normal road segment. It is a road that unites Albanians on both sides of the border and as such, it shouldn’t have to be paid. The unification of lands through this road segment goes beyond all the rules introduced for its use. The importance of this road is bigger than taxation. This road enables not only freedom of movement for people and goods, but business for the Albanian nation starts and ends in this very road. Therefore, it is more than unnecessary to tax a road such as this one that brings so much revenues. With small exceptions, until 1990, Albania had a miserable infrastructure. Thus, one generation which has not inherited any infrastructure from the previous generation, shouldn’t have to pay for all of this infrastructure which is being built during the time that this generation is living. This tax cannot shouldn’t be paid, because there are no alternative roads to cross this area. If there were other alternatives, everyone could choose whether or not to use this road or not. But, if this highway is the only road, then why does it have to be paid? The lack of this type of contemporary road has been a cost for Albanians on both sides of the border. Its construction is not an issue of luxury, but a necessity for development and this necessity must not turn into a tax. Albanians are considered to be the poorest country in Europe. Then, how can these poor people be treated the same as the English, the Germans, Italians or the Dutch in terms of the level of taxes? This road acts as the most important road for tourists coming to Albania. Albanians of Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, use this road to travel to Durres, Vlora and Saranda and if they paid every time they entered and exited the highway, their costs would increase. As a result, the number of road users and tourists would increase. Given that Albanians pay road tax once a year, they don’t have to pay this tax twice. 200 million euros are collected from this tax and this is a significant amount to maintain the road. The payment should not be made in euros, given that the Albanian official currency is lek. This is the first and the only tax in the history of the Albanian nation applied in a foreign currency. Nobody discussed, negotiated and explained to people, especially the residents of Kukes what this tax was, why was it needed, what did it bring and how important it was. The payment for a concessionary company is part of an exaggerated program and project with concessionary companies that this government has had. The outsourcing of an activity has turned into the number 1 problem for Rama’s government. Even this highway has been outsourced, thus being a big problem.