Government backtracks on vehicle import policies

Bowing under pressure from dealers and sellers, the government has relaxed its new vehicle import policies for the coming year.

The changes will come as a relief to importers, who had deemed policies announced in mid-December too strict, and had asked President U Thein Sein to consider an amendment.

The unpopular regulations announced in December and set to come into force on January 1 would have tightened restrictions on the import of new cars and the exchange of older ones.

Yet the government’s capitulation highlights the instability of vehicle import regulations, which have been changed more than a dozen times over the past few years.

It will also likely mean more vehicles on the crowded roads of Yangon, while congestion is fast becoming a critical issue.

The new rules were announced on January 7 by the Road Transport Administration Department under the Ministry of Rail Transportation.

People using the “clunker scheme” in which they trade in an older model in return for each import permit can now import private cars manufactured between 2006 and 2010, or 2006 to 2016 models with less than 1300 cubic centimetre engines, according to an RTAD statement.

They can also import trucks and public buses made between 2006 and 2016.

Individuals importing vehicles for personal use, import and export companies, Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff, army diplomats under the Ministry of Defense, seamen, Myanmar citizens working overseas, and businesspeople in the hotels and tourism industry can now import private cars made in 2011 or more recently, and can import trucks and buses made between 2006 and 2016.

Taxis can be imported with the permission of the regional or state government, if they have been made between 2011 and 2016.

Those applying to import vehicles with an FOC, or free-of-charge licence, can import private cars and public buses made between 2011 and 2016. They can also import business machinery made between 2006 and 2016, and fire trucks, ambulances and funeral vehicles made between 2000 and 2016.

Members of religious orders including monks and nuns, and government departments, can import 2006 to 2016 models, of all vehicles – cars, buses, trucks and machines.

The above changes represent a marked relaxation compared to the earlier policies.

According to the measures the RTAD announced in December, dealers could import private cars, trucks and buses manufactured between 2006 and 2013 under the “clunker scheme”. All other categories of vehicles imported had to be left-hand drives and to have been made no earlier than 2014.

Under the new rules, cars made in 2015 or 2016 must be left-hand drives. All other imports can be either right-hand or left-hand drives.

The government has long been considering changing the rules to limit imports to left-hand-drive vehicles, but has met with resistance. The change, when it is eventually introduced across the board, will make driving safer, as Myanmar traffic drives on the right side of the road.

The RTAD announcement also offered clarity for importers who brought cars into the country in 2015 but have not yet registered them. They are now permitted to register the cars up until the end of 2016.

Aung Naing Htun of the Sakura car auction centre said he welcomed the new policies. “The customers will now be able to buy cars at a reasonable price,” he said.

“Last week car prices had shot up, but now they have fallen back down. It’s as it should be.”

Source: Myanmar Times

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