A petrolhead, by definition, is a car fanatic. Diesel, hybrid and, electric-powered vehicles all fall under this definition but petrol is held to a higher regard. Anything that can be driven is game and an excuse can always be found to do some more driving.
The sound of burnt exhaust gases exiting the fiery bowels of turbo-charged hell excites every nerve in the petrolhead, just like touching a live electric wire. I have seen young kids shake with electric excitement when they first hear a revving car.
For a driver, the throttle is a trigger for a dopamine hit: a dose of instant gratification available at the twitch of a toe. Petrol explodes, the exhaust growls, tyres squeal and happiness happens.
If you’re a petrolhead, you don’t really care what the price of petrol is. Yes, you are aware how much it costs but that’s simply so that you know how much to pay.
Because they love their machines enormously, petrolheads use only the best products and pay a premium. Performance motor oil and high-octane fuel are standard fares, with the latter retailing on average at 10 shillings more. This is because Petrolheads essentially understand that a car is a luxury, not a basic need.
It is also a very inefficient and financially unsound mode of mobility. Most of the time there’s only one person in a four-seat car; meaning at all times you are lugging dead weight when the objective is simply to move one person from point A to B. Practically speaking, to move one human you need at most two wheels and a single cylinder.
Because of carrying around that empty space, cars comparatively take up more tarmac space than motorcycles, buses or vans do. Kenya is taking loans to build the necessary infrastructure to maintain its hold as the economic heavyweight in the area.
The price of building a highway is currently over Sh 60 million per km. It may not be the popular opinion but it makes complete sense to pass on that cost to vehicles using the highway. Soon enough there will be toll stations on the highways and motorists will have to pay as they should.
However, arbitrarily raising fuel prices without considering the implications on the economy and cost of living is a thoughtless political tactic. It serves only to alienate the politicians from the populace and inevitably leads to louder demands for better pay.
That’s why the squeamish of the lot is already pandering to the popular sentiment that fuel prices should go down. The solution, oddly, lies in raising the price of petrol even further, but by also lowering the price of diesel significantly.
You see, the reason everything immediately gets more expensive with the increase is because diesel is the driver of the economy. Not petrol! All bus engines use diesel as do all 14-seat matatus, lorries and, even trains! Diesel moves people and goods more efficiently than petrol ever has and ever will. By applying the 16 per cent tax on diesel the government is shooting itself in the foot.
Most private cars are petrol-powered and since any government with half a brain knows that private motoring is unsustainable. Heck, even car companies such as Mercedes and Toyota are transitioning from “car makers” and into “ride-sharing mobility companies.” It, therefore, makes sense to tax petrol to the stratosphere. Make it more painful to use a private car and cheaper to use public means.
The cost of living stays low and the roads stay uncongested. Time and money lost in gridlock traffic, the bane of every large city, becomes a thing of the past. This needs a fact-based and emotionless approach to the VAT application.
We currently have people driving in heavy inefficient seven-seat SUVs, complaining about the price of fuel. I know of families with three and four cars because it’s convenient, and they are still complaining about the price of fuel.
There’s one man I know who even bought his maid a car so she can go to the market. Fine, if you can afford it then pay for it. If you are inconsolably bothered by the cost of private mobility, please use public transport. Or get a motorbike.
I, therefore, propose that an additional, convenience tax, on petrol. People who really like driving, blue blood petrolheads, won’t mind. A petrolhead will willingly pay a princely sum to buy a very fast car with a very big engine and fill it up with high-performance high-octane petrol so that they can drive. And since everyone else will be off the roads, they will actually be able to drive instead of being stuck in traffic.