New auto restrictions may have little impact on quality of imports

With traffic congestion in Yangon bad and road accidents even worse, experts and customs officials are worried that new rules aimed at deterring importers from bringing in old and potentially unsafe vehicles will do little to resolve the situation.

Ministry of Commerce spokesman U Min Min told The Myanmar Times that beginning next year, the government will ban the import of vehicle models that predate the year 2000 as a part of its long-term strategy to cut down the number of unsafe vehicles on the road.

Even so, U Min Min said that such a policy may not deter certain importers, who have taken to cheating customs officials by claiming vehicles are newer than they actually are.

“Now, we will define legal auto import models as being from the year 2000 up to 2008, but I think importers will try and bring in cheaper 1999 models,” he said.

He said that Myanmar would ideally like to bring its auto import restrictions in line with the international standard by capping used imports at models less than five years old, but did not want to discourage importers of older vehicle models from investing in the burgeoning auto market.

An official from the customs department, who requested anonymity, said that loose interpretation of the new rule by both importers and customs officials would greatly diminish its impact as older models currently being imported are only subject to a marginal fine of K100,000 per vehicle.

Myanmar began imposing restrictions on imported vehicles last year, allowing in only models manufactured in 1996 or later. This year, a revised

restriction shrinks the age of permissible models to those manufactured between 1997 and 2007. The 2014 import restrictions will dramatically shift the car market toward newer models.

Since the car replacement scheme began two years ago, more than 200,000 cars have been imported, while the government has authorized more than a third of its 100 auto distribution centres to import 2008 to 2012 models. Imports of 2012 and 2013 models can also be accommodated for personal use so long as they are left-hand drive only.

But with over 300,000 cars already registered at Road Transport Administration Department, according to U Min Min, some are questioning the government’s long-term strategy for dealing with the number of vehicles on the road.

Colonel Kyaw Htwe of the Nay Pyi Taw traffic police department said the continued importing of used cars would only lead to further congestion and accidents.

“Our country is still poor and the government wants citizens to drive. But the towns have not enough land to extend the road areas. In my opinion, they should allow the [importing of] cars produced at least within the last five years.”

“The government should plan for the next 10 to 15 years if they allow the importing of cars,” he said.

More than 2000 people were killed in about 7600 traffic accidents across Myanmar from January to August, according to local reports.

“Traffic jams and accidents are not related to imports,” said Ko Win Ko, the owner of Win Ko Auto. “They’re caused by people who don’t follow discipline. Public transportation and private cars should follow the rules. Compared with the population, there are too few cars.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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