Saturday,  Oct 20, 2018,23:49 (GMT+7) 0 0
Monkey business
The Saigon Times Daily
Monday,  Dec 4, 2017,18:48 (GMT+7)

Monkey business

The Saigon Times Daily

The game theory applies again at the controversial tollgate in Tien Giang Province’s Cai Lay Town when drivers resort to new tricks to protest toll collection there, forcing the operator to lift all barriers three times within just one day of the tollgate’s operation being resumed. And the saga is feared to last long again like it was four months ago if no compromise between the two sides is achieved, or if authorities do not adopt an agreeable solution to douse the fire of objection.

Back in August, drivers and transport companies, frustrated at the wrong location of the tollgate, used banknotes and coins of small denomination to pay toll fees, causing severe traffic chaos there. They reasoned that the company had wrongly erected the tollgate on National Highway 1A to collect fees for a nearby bypass. Such protests forced BOT Tien Giang as the investor to suspend the tollgate operation.

But the move months ago was not a compromise, as BOT Tien Giang has taken advantage of the interruption to prepare itself for any possible tricks. It has built parking bays on either side of the tollgate to accommodate any drivers using banknotes of small denomination to pay toll fees so that the flow of traffic would not be affected. The investor has also resorted to populist measures, exempting or halving toll fees for residents living nearby, and at the same time lowering the fee for a standard vehicle from VND35,000 to VND25,000.

Such measures fail again, however.

Drivers, insisting that the tollgate be relocated, have taken new tricks this time when the investor restarted operation last Thursday. They used both banknotes of the biggest value, VND500,000, and those of small denomination, or even credit cards, to pay fees, causing headaches for collectors. Even more dramatically, to pay VND25,000 for a vehicle, they paid VND24,500, plus three banknotes of VND200 to total VND25,100, and demanded the collector return VND100, a legal tender of the smallest value hardly found on the market.
Such tricks paid off, as the toll gate had to stop operation three times in a day.

But a childish play has come on stage, when the central bank announced last Friday that it had a good amount of VND100 banknotes to supply BOT Cai Lay. However, like in a game theory, such a measure taken at 12a.m on Saturday can hardly neutralize drivers’ tricks, but embolden the protesters who have remained defiant. On social media, many drivers have said they wield new tricks to respond to any measures by the tollgate operator.

At a Government meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered that the controversy at Cai Lay Tollgate be put to an end, and the Transport Ministry was told to do the job.

Although both the ministry and the investor have repeatedly insisted that the selection of the location for the tollgate conformed to legal procedures, drivers and transporters have a very strong logic in demanding its relocation. That logic is simple: they shall not pay for the service they do not use. Never monkey with that.

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