The global automobile titans that are increasingly setting up Yangon showrooms are said to be quietly confident – Myanmar’s car industry is threatening no one, except possibly the people who drive the cars it produces.
At least, that was the impression that MPs were left with on July 13 after the debate on the shenanigans surrounding the issuance of car-import slips.
A government policy introduced in 2011 swept antique cars from Yangon’s empty roads and replaced them with hordes of gleaming new SUVs. Car owners were allowed to turn in an old car in exchange for permission to import a new one, at a reasonable price.
Officially known as “vehicle entrusting”, it’s more informally known as the clunker program.
It appears that Myanmar’s auto industry exists primarily to turn out such clunkers, which are then exchanged for car-import slips and promptly destroyed. A secondary purpose of the industry is apparently to give foreign ambassadors a day out with something to chuckle over, according to one prominent Member of Parliament.
Pyithu Hluttaw MP Thura U Aung Ko, a Central Executive Committee member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, led the charge.
He said the vehicles made in Myanmar’s industrial zones could not even be said to have been “Made in Myanmar” because most of the parts in them were not.
“Saying these cars were made in Myanmar industrial zones is just a lie,” he said.
“Foreign ambassadors have been invited to see these car factories. They are smiling when they leave. This is making the country look silly,” he added.
Still, somebody is doing well out of it.
“Vehicles made in the industrial zones are handed in to the Road Transport Administration Department, which issues a car-import slip,” he said.
“More than 2000 vehicles have been manufactured in industrial zones since 2011. At K5 million per slip, that’s K10 billion in lost revenue,” he told reporters in Nay Pyi Taw last week.
Addressing the issue, deputy railways minister U Chan Maung told MPs that the number of good-quality vehicles made in industrial zones was “minuscule”.
“There are very few zone-made vehicles of good quality. The investors who produce such vehicles mainly intend to get a car-import slip,” he said.
The deputy minister said that 23,745 old cars, including zone-made vehicles, had been surrendered under the clunker program, but the practice had been suspended since February 27 this year.
The Thanlyin foundry, where the cars are destroyed, rejected about 250 zone-made vehicles because it did not recognise them as cars. The vehicles, all with license plates starting with 8L, “were not consistent with the features of a vehicle”, it said.
Thura U Aung Ko said, “Swindling investors use genuine old cars to get an import slip from the Road Transport Administration Department, but the so-called vehicle they take to the foundry is just a steel box on wheels, with an engine block but no mirrors, lights or gears.”
He invited someone to assure him that there was no corruption involved in this transaction. Nobody could.
Source: Myanmar Times