Car import business marred by fraudulent dealings

However, the chief of the unit, U Myint Cho, said the rate of importation had fallen from about 20,000 per month last year to the single-figure thousands this year.

“From that point of view the system has been reasonably successful,” he said.

Alarmed at the almost constant congestion that developed in Yangon following the liberalisation of vehicle import rules in 2011, the government introduced a rule that, as of January 2015, importers had to demonstrate that there was a parking space for each car they intended to bring in and apply to their local township for a letter of recommendation.

But the parking analysis group found that nearly all importers had fraudulently received the letters of recommendation.

“When we started checking in May, we found that 95 percent of importers did not keep their vehicles at the address they gave the township authorities. They told us they had resold the cars, or that they were ‘out’,” he said.

The group also found that a thriving market had developed in letters of recommendation, with some documents going for up to K700,000. A secondary market has apparently grown, by which people living in the outskirts of Yangon “sell” their addresses to would-be car buyers living in downtown apartment blocks with no parking space.

Such transactions, conducted through brokers, can also be worth K300,000 to K700,000.

“We withdraw every letter of recommendation that we find to be invalid as a result of our checks. That drives up the price on the black market,” said U Myint Cho.

Since June, the parking analysis group has been performing spot checks on the streets of downtown Yangon. If they find that the cars are parked at an address that does not match the documents, they report the driver to the police. Offenders are liable to a fine in township court.

“We take action under YCDC law against car owners found to have violated procedure,” he said. The law provides for fines ranging from K10,000 to K500,000 and three years’ imprisonment.

“Some people ask if they can reapply if their first letter is rejected. If they can provide proof of access to a parking place, we will interview them,” he said.

Nearly half a million new cars have been imported since 2011, mostly for use in Yangon. The carrying capacity of Yangon’s roads has been estimated at about 450,000 vehicles.

“Other states and regions also need new vehicles. But a way must be found to limit the flow. The parking-space requirement doesn’t seem to have worked,” he said.

Source: Myanmar Times

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