Almost 30,000 individuals have been approved to import cars to Myanmar since the start of the year and over 9000 cars will be imported by companies or groups, according to documents seen by The Myanmar Times.
An individual can apply for a car import licence by proving they have space to park it, under a new law introduced at the start of the year.
Since then, the Ministry of Commerce has granted almost 30,000 licences, according to official documents.
Proof of a parking space must come in the form of a recommendation letter from the local township administrative office.
The law was introduced after Yangon’s residents pointed out there were too many cars in the city and that the people are facing maddening traffic jams every day.
Last November, the ministry held a meeting with dealers and the Myanmar Automobile Manufacturers and Distributors Association to discuss how to solve the problem.
They all voted against suspending car imports, and the Yangon Region government set its new policy for parking recommendations.
Importers have criticised the rule, saying that it won’t solve the city’s traffic problems.
In January, just 900 import licences were granted by township administrative offices. Importers have complained that some offices are faster at processing requests than others. In some cases, the waiting time is too long and is impacting their business, they said.
Typically, they have to wait two to three weeks for each recommendation letter, which slows the import process.
Township officers are supposed to meet four times a month to approve applications. But by the end of January 2015, the number of requests for car permits had fallen by 10 times, said U Soe Tun, chair of Automobile Manufacturers and Distributors Association.
In June, 6000 individuals received licences, according to the ministry list, but importers continue to protest that the policy is hurting their businesses.
Building car parking space is the government’s responsibility, and should have nothing to do with car importers, said car sales managers.
“Some foreigners in Yangon want to buy cars, but need their landlord to apply for a recommendation letter. Often the landlord doesn’t want to do this, which means foreigners can’t buy cars and we can’t sell,” said manager U Myo Myint Thein from Toyota Tsusho Asia Pacific Company.
The head of sales for Mercedes Benz Myanmar, U Aung Thet Lwin, said that it’s hard for customers to make a quick decision to buy a car, because they don’t know whether they will secure a recommendation letter.
In addition, they said, car sellers cannot be expected to find out whether customers have a parking space or not.
“I don’t know how importers get their recommendation letters or whether they actually have space. If they have a letter, I sell the car,” said U Soe Htun.
Source: Myanmar Times