Hangzhou will restrict vehicle registrations
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.