Hangzhou will re­strict ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tions

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

Hangzhou, cap­i­tal of Zhe­jiang prov­ince, an­nounced on Tues­day night that it would re­strict the num­ber of ve­hi­cles reg­is­tered ev­ery year, and the new li­cense plates would be is­sued via a lot­tery start­ing from Wed­nes­day. Ru­mors had it that the city would tighten car own­er­ship to ease traf­fic con­ges­tion and com­bat air pol­lu­tion, but the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties had more than once dis­missed the ru­mors, say­ing those were ac­tu­ally a gim­mick used to stim­u­late buy­ing.

How­ever, the for­mal an­nounce­ment which has sub­stan­ti­ated them, is clear ev­i­dence as to how the govern­ment’s flip-flop­ping on an is­sue can un­der­mine its cred­i­bil­ity, says a com­men­tary in Bei­jing News.

Words on restrict­ing the is­suance of li­cense plates in Hangzhou started to cir­cu­late in 2011, when the city first in­tro­duced a traf­fic re­stric­tion plan to keep 20 per­cent of ve­hi­cles off the road dur­ing rush hours on work­days, but the au­thor­i­ties kept say­ing no.

Not too long be­fore the lat­est pol­icy change, the lo­cal traf­fic con­ges­tion con­trol of­fice was still deny­ing any such pol­icy would be in­tro­duced.

Bei­jing be­came the first city to im­ple­ment li­cense plate re­stric­tions in early 2011, and be­fore re­leas­ing the new pol­icy, the cap­i­tal had spent one week solic­it­ing pub­lic opin­ion, which at least had some cush­ion­ing ef­fect.

Other cities that fol­lowed Bei­jing’s lead, such as Guangzhou and Tian­jin, how­ever, ad­justed their pol­icy all of a sud­den and there­fore in­vited crit­i­cism. It is a shame that Hangzhou has failed to learn the les­son from this.

The lo­cal govern­ment in Hangzhou has ar­gued that re­leas­ing the in­for­ma­tion pre­ma­turely would trig­ger last minute buy­ing. The fact is that some auto 4S stores claimed to have in­side in­for­ma­tion and launched pro­mo­tion cam­paigns be­fore the pol­icy was in­tro­duced.

And a se­cret buyer re­port­edly ac­quired plates for more than 100 newly pur­chased ve­hi­cles be­fore the pol­icy was re­leased. In ei­ther case, the lo­cal govern­ment’s flip-flop­ping on the pol­icy has dis­rupted mar­ket or­der, and may even point to cor­rupt prac­tices.

Thanks to such overnight pol­icy changes, many people else­where are con­sid­er­ing buy­ing cars ahead of their sched­ule, wor­ry­ing that their cities might fol­low suit. Hope­fully their gov­ern­ments will do a bet­ter job.

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