Who to blame when you are stuck in traffic jam or facing parking problems

YANGON- A total of 618,663 vehicles have been registered in Myanmar until September this year. Among them, more than 410,000 vehicles were registered in Yangon Region, according to the website of the Department of Road Transport Administration.

What’s happened to Yangon with over 400,000 vehicles?

Yangon has only over 410,000 vehicles. In spite of the small amount of vehicles, people are stuck in traffic jam every day.
For example, those who are living in Shwepyithar, Mingaladone and Hlaingtharyar Township in Yangon Region have to spend too much time – about 3 or 4 hours for a day – on the bus to go to their work. About one-eighth of human life is spent on the road and it is a lot of time.

Another issue is a parking problem. For example, when a quarrel regarding parking space took place in Bahan Township, a reciprocal lawsuit was filed at the police station. Looking at the lawsuits, we can easily imagine how many parking problems would happen?

There were no parking areas in downtown Yangon. That’s why people had to quarrel each other over a parking place. We pointed out that such parking problems will increase.

It is worrying that Yangon had already faced parking problem, with just over 400,000 vehicles.

If cars will be imported to meet the set standard of Vietnam

“We would like to say about the cars. In Thailand, 270 people out of 1,000 own the cars. Likewise, 21 people in Laos, 20 in Cambodia, 13 in Vietnam own vehicles. That’s why to meet the set standard of the Vietnam; we will have to import nearly 3.8 million cars,” said Win Myint, Union Minister for Commerce at the press on automobile import held on May 7 of 2012.

The issue is inadequate roads and parking space as there are over 600,000 vehicles across the nation and Yangon has more than 400,000 vehicles. If 3.8 million of cars will be imported to meet the set standard of Vietnam, the public must be suffering from traffic problems until next 10 years.

Who will take responsibility for traffic jam?

The Ministry of Rail Transportation held a meeting on a change in car policy at the ministry’s office in Nay Pyi Taw on September 11 of 2011.

And then vehicle replacement program for old cars had been implemented according to a new policy. A group led by Union ministers Soe Thein and Aung Min started to change automobile policy.

After two months, in November, allowing car import, Yangon’s dwellers began to be stuck in traffic jam. That’s why the government planned to solve Yangon’s traffic jam problems. They planned to build four overpasses. The construction projects were to take about four months.

They announced a statement at the press conference held in Nay Pyi Taw on November 28 over their aim that Yangon would be became like Singapore.

As they know that traffic jams would occur in Yangon, they allowed individual car import license since the beginning of May 4, 2012. Due to a new car import program, there was an influx of imported cars in Yangon. This is the main reason of traffic jam.
Although car import policy had been changed, no one can lay down a plan regarding what they will do for roads. It is clear that it was the government’s mismanagement.

Union Ministers Soe Thein, Aung Min and Win Myint had been active participants in a change of car policy. They can’t lay down the road policy. When people were stuck in a traffic jam, they could blame on those three ministers.

Only three ministers?

The three ministers changed the car policy together with some high ranking government officials who can’t solve traffic jams and car parking problems.

The critics pointed out that Yangon Regional Chief Minister Myint Swe and Yangon Mayor Hla Myint handed over some state-owned land in commercial city Yangon to the private entities with the aim to solve the car parking program by constructing multi-car parking and bus-stop grounds.

Nowadays, Yangon has already faced lack of state-owned land plots which are located in crowded areas and these lands were handed over to the private.

For example, the government allowed private companies to open sale centers and shops at the People’s Square and People’s Park.
Moreover, a market place was handed over to a business person. Therefore, some question how many state-owned land plots were handed over the private sector.

If there were ample state-owned land plots, one could not worry for car parking problems in Myanmar where there are just about 600,000 vehicles.

Now, Myanmar is facing a serious car parking problem due to lack of state-owned land to construct car parking buildings and bus stop grounds.

If we are going to criticize those three union ministers who had been active participants in laying down of the car policy program, we shouldn’t leave Yangon’s Chief Minister and Yangon Mayor who contributed to land shortages for construction of car parking.

Why the people criticize…

The main reason for traffic jams is the government’s mismanagement plan. They went wrong since the beginning of laying down the new car policy program. Despite people were stuck in traffic jam, free permits for car import were granted again.

And then, they planned to solve traffic jams through short-term plans by constructing flyovers. However, they had failed. At present, the people are still stuck in traffic jams.

From October 25, 2011 to the end of August of this year, the government earned a total of Ks 933 billion (nearly US$ one billion) from commercial tax and custom duty levied on more than newly imported 340,000 vehicles at Yangon Port.

Moreover, they also earned about Ks 1000 billion (nearly US$ one billion) on Vehicle Registration Fees.

Although they had earned hundred thousand billion of kyats from car imports, they didn’t take the responsibility to solve the traffic jam problem.

The spending in building flyovers added up to Ks 48 billion (US$48 million) _ Ks 14 billion for Hledan Flyover, Ks 13 billion for Shwegondaing Flyover, and Ks 21 billion for Bayintnaung Flyover.

If Ks 48 billion can build 3 flyovers, one may guess how many roads can be built with Ks 1 trillion (US$ 1 billion). However, there is nothing else to show except 3 flyovers until today.

At the time everyone faces lack of car parking space as a serious problem, public criticisms emerge for certain plots of state-owned land being given to private businesses rather than used for car parking.

To PINPOINT all these things, the main cause can be said to be “mismanagement” or “mal-management”.

Despite pointing out about insufficient space for car parking

The Weekly Eleven Journal, issued on February 1, 2012, published an article titled “Traffic jams become worse in Yangon and Mandalay: failure to upgrade infrastructure might lead to consequences worse than expected”.

The story published before free permits were offered quoted Police Lt-Col Myo Aung as saying, “Although new cars are imported, they are just replacements for old cars. So, we can’t say the number of cars is increasing. Also, the number of [imported] cars is just over 10,000. As the program continues and the number of cars increases, traffic jams will become worse. To solve this problem, as we frequently mentioned to the media, management is the key. Parking space is essential. In downtown areas, [the government] granted high-rises, shopping centres, restaurents and hotels without having car parking. Most roads in downtown are two-way and four-lane. When two lanes are used for car parking, only two other lanes are left for driving. Besides, bus stops are located near each other on the road. Three to five buses stop at the bus-stop. If traffic jams didn’t occur here, where would it happen? The key point is management, and parking space.”

While the issue of inadequate car parking space remained to solve, the government allowed individual automobile import on May 4, 2012. It made the need for car parking more serious.

In an article titled “Despite efforts to resolve traffic jams in Yangon, it worsens affecting social life” in the Weekly Eleven Journal, issued on July 15, 2013, officials and experts pointed the situation.

In the story, an official from Yangon City Development Committee said, “It has been considered to widen roads to correspond with the increasing number of cars. However, there are limits to widening roads.” He pointed out that widening roads is still limited.

Traffic jams occur in Yangon because of insufficient car parking of buildings. Therefore, Japan International Cooperation Agency suggested in a 2013 report that adequate car parking must be made mandatory in building high-rises.

Will it continue?

Everyone knows that three Union ministers, Yangon Region Chief Minister and Yangon Mayor laid down these policies that resulted in daily trouble of traffic jams and inadequate parking space.

It is evident that widening roads is not the solution yet. The main problem is the disproportionate number cars and the capacity of roads. Everyone including responsible officials knows it.

The answer is to balance the number of cars and the capacity of roads. If the capacity of roads cannot be increased, the only way is to control the number of cars, at least temporarily.

In controlling the number of cars, old-car-replacement programs and allowing tax payers to import cars do not affect traffic problems and they need not be restricted. The one causing problem is free permit.

If free permits are restricted while roads are improved, it will relieve traffic jam issue to some extent.

The government’s liberalization on automobile import should be welcome as it dropped car prices and made it affordable for many people to buy cars. On the other hand, we should not forget the traffic-jam troubles of the people who do not have a car. There are about 2.2 million people in Yangon who had to rely on bus transport.

Even the All Private Bus-lines Control Committee had to reduce the number of bus lines because of traffic jams. So, the issue is easily visible.

If traffic jams keep on and trouble continues this way even with knowledge of the cause and possible solution to the problem, remember those five responsible persons including three Union ministers.


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