Auto industry firm against adopting Singaporean system
AMID the ongoing struggle to rein in the number of cars in trafficchoked Yangon, dealers are already criticising what they believe may be the authorities’ latest scheme for keeping new cars out.
The regional government, which sets the policy, has yet to confirm that they will introduce a system of Certificates of Entitlement (COE), similar to that used in Singapore, where would-be vehicle owners bid for the right to own and use a car for a set period, usually five to 10 years.
U Maung Aung, secretary of the Yangon Region Transport Authority (YRTA), told The Myanmar Times in September that the government was hoping to secure funding for a COE system, but that it would have to fair and affordable for all drivers.
Rumours that the government is pursuing the Singaporean system have sparked opposition from the automobile industry, although U Maung Aung this week told The Myanmar Times the government was considering a several differential import systems – including COE – but had yet to make a decision.
U Aung Win, vice chair of the Authorised Automobile Distributors’ Association, is skeptical that a COE arrangement is right for Myanmar.
“COE may work for an island like Singapore, but it’s not appropriate for a big country. Yangon is the economic heart of Myanmar. To function properly here, businesses need access to vehicles. Under a COE system, it won’t be easy to meet vehicle requirements,” he said, adding that if the government intends to use a COE system it should first upgrade the city’s public transportation network.
“It’s not realistic for the government to limit the numbers of cars without upgrading the road infrastructure. If everybody can access transport however rich or poor they are, there’s no need for a COE system,” he said.
A system of allowing imported cars only if the buyer can produce evidence of sufficient parking space has been suspended since April, amid indications of widespread misuse of registration documents.
“The government should encourage private companies to build parking space. That would help attract investors,” said U Aung Win, adding that greater control should be exercised over car showrooms and sales centres. “Nobody knows who owns what cars, or where the cars are,” he said.
U Myint Cho spokesperson for the car parking recommendation issuing group under the Ministry of Commerce – which analyses recommendations from township administrators on parking shortages – said discussions with the regional government on car imports to Yangon were continuing.
Whatever the eventual policy might be, dealers are calling on the government to make an early statement.
U Myo Myint Thein, chief operations officer of Toyota Aye and Sons – a local Toyota joint venture – said, “I don’t like the COE system. It would mean only rich people could afford to buy cars, because you have to buy the certificate at an auction. But we don’t know what the government’s policy is.”
Myanmar Coach Centre managing director U Kyaw Kyaw Aung said that the most important thing was that a policy was announced publicly, and soon.
“We heard that the government was considering introducing COEs, but nothing has been announced,” he said. “It’s important that there should be a policy for all, whether it’s COE or not. But they should tell us what the policy is. They said they would do something about car imports, but nothing has happened.”