Sunday, August 07, 2011

The mouse problem

Dubai follows Abu Dhabi’s lead, and is, according to this article in the Gulf News, going to offer discounts on traffic fines.

Think about the purpose of a traffic fine for a moment. Officially at least, it is punishment. The money that you were saving up for your holiday, new fridge, school fees or beer is instead directed into central government coffers. That’ll learn ya! A more cynical Goat might believe that traffic fines, especially those incurred after being detected by a speed camera, are simply a means of raising revenue.

Look how easy it is to pay most traffic fines. Go on-line and quote your credit card number. Visit a shopping mall and stand at one of those fine Fine-Payment machines. Wait until the end of the year and simply add the payment on to the inspection and registration fees.

If the intention were punitive, the perpetrator would have to take time off work, attend court, and then be given a right royal runaround across town, collecting rubber stamps on official forms in order to obtain permission to pay. In truth, this punishment is reserved for those attempting to recover their security deposits before leaving the country. It is true that some traffic offences incur a version of the time-wasting palaver. According to the Goat’s spies, driving on the breakdown lane (for example) can involve an invitation to stand in front of the Police Captain to receive a dressing down and then to apologise. (Fifth Amendment inserted here for the avoidance of doubt.)

What can possibly be the reasoning behind reducing traffic fines, then? Previously they were increased: speeding now starts at Dh600, whereas it used to be Dh200. That ‘zero tolerance yields zero crashes’ no-messin’ attitude seems to have had minimal effect.

The Goat reckons that the increased fines simply cause more and more cases of non-payment. Either can’t pay or won’t pay. It’s impossible to register a motor vehicle without paying the fines, so logically the non-payers are punished by not being able to use their vehicles, right? Of course not! The number of unregistered and consequently uninsured vehicles on the road increases. By reducing the fines, they become easier to pay. Result: fewer unregistered and uninsured vehicles. A further benefit for the government is that 50% of some income is better than 100% of buggerall.

Abu Dhabi, and soon Dubai seem to be following advice from Monty Python’s The Mouse Problem sketch. “The only way to bring the crime figures down is to reduce the number of offences.”


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