No change to car import policy: Commerce Ministry

Deputy Commerce Minister U Pwint San said during a meeting with car importers and the Myanmar Automobile Manufacturers and Distributors Association on November 30 that the ministry would not intervene in the market.

“It is true that Yangon is facing heavy traffic jams. But we will not cancel car import permits,” he said. “There has been a rumour that we will cancel personal permits and limit sales to car-sale centres. But we will find other ways to improve the import system.”

Several car-trading yards, specifically facilitating private trading of used cars, are established in urban areas and create ugly traffic snarls, said Myanmar Automobile Trade Association chair U Aung Than Win.

“Official car-trading yards at the old Thirimingalar and Bartar markets accepted about 2000 units,” he said. “In the past, these cars can park the whole day and night. But since the car import policy changed in 2011, these yards have been flooded because businesses parked their fleets at the compounds.

“Many personal car importers complained to the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), which responded by ruling that cars cannot be parked at the yards at night,” he said.

Instead, traders drive their cars into the yard at 6am and take them out at 6pm – just when the city’s peak-hour traffic is at its worst.

U Aung Than Win said the trading centres should be moved outside the urban area to solve the issue.

Chair of the Myanmar Automobile Manufacturers and Distributors Association U Soe Htun said the recent increase in the value of the US dollar against the Myanmar kyat, an upswing of about 8 percent, could be partially attributed to demand for dollars to import cars.

He said the Central Bank had considered asking private banks to suspend offering new personal bank accounts in US dollars in November.

Car trader U Aung Kyaw Oo said solving the city’s traffic congestion required education, not ministerial interference.

“If the ministry cancels car imports, will it stop the traffic jams? I don’t think so, this is not the correct answer,” he said. “Much of the problem comes from drivers who only think about driving their cars and don’t know the traffic rules.”

Since the government initiated changes to the car import policy more than 400,000 new or used vehicles have been imported to Myanmar and registered. Minister for Commerce U Win Myint said the ministry has permitted 186 car sale centres to open, including 14 centres that sell vehicles from globally recognised brands that include Toyota, Ford, Jaguar, Mazda, Nissan and Mercedes.

However, many of the 400,000-plus vehicles have found their way onto Yangon’s roads, clogging its limited road network.


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