Monday, September 25, 2017

Thousands of car imports approved

A new government-led supervisory committee has released around 14,000 cars that had been held at Myanmar’s borders after an informal ban on vehicle imports was imposed last December.

Cars wait for access to Yangon’s Sule Pagoda Road. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon/ The Myanmar TimesCars wait for access to Yangon’s Sule Pagoda Road. Photo: Naing Wynn Htoon/ The Myanmar Times

When the last vehicle import supervisory committee was disbanded at the end of last year, thousands of cars bound for Myanmar were held up, commerce minister U Than Myint told The Myanmar Times.

“After re-forming the committee, we allowed about 14,000 cars from the border areas into the country on May 1, extending the permits that had expired. We plan to allow businesses to use these cars if businesspeople will apply,” he said.

Earlier this week car dealers and logistics firms said they had struggled to get vehicles and machinery across the borders during the past five months. They believed the restrictions were partly a response to huge volumes of trucks and other types of machinery entering Myanmar from China.

Commerce Minister U Than Myint will chair the new supervisory committee and take responsibility for setting policies and tackling congestion. He will replace former commerce minister U Win Myint who caused great confusion by altering import policy more than a dozen times in five years.

The committee will also include representatives from the Ministry of Transport and Communication, the Ministry of Industry, the Internal Revenue Department, the Customs Department, the Ministry of Commerce,the Ministry for Planning and Finance, the Road Transport Administration Department and the Trade Department.

Hundreds of thousands of new cars were imported under the former government, mostly ending up on the streets of Yangon. Last December, ministry data showed that almost 504,000 vehicles had arrived in the country since 2011, just shy of the government’s 530,027-vehicle quota for its five-year term.

The new committee will follow some of the former government’s policies as well as coming up with new ideas, a commerce ministry spokesperson said.

Some confusion has already emerged over a policy that required importers to provide a letter from their local township administrator to prove they had car parking space.

This is still officially a requirement, but new showroom and car sales centres have been unable to get letters from township administrators since the new government took office on April 1, said U Myint Cho who chairs the Yangon government’s car parking analysis group.

“[The new] Yangon Region government has not directed us whether to continue the policy or not. No new policies have come out yet. But we will present other solutions to the problem,” he said.

The policy backfired last year after entrepreneurs began selling letters of recommendation for up to K700,000 and a secondary market developed for people living on the outskirts of Yangon to “sell” their addresses to prospective car buyers.

“Letters are still required, but importers are unable to get letters,” said U Kyi Thar Han, vice chair of the Myanmar Automobile Manufacturers and Distributors Association (Yangon branch). “Some importers have already applied [to township administrators], but have received no response. We have told the Yangon Region government about the problem,” he said.

MAMDA chair U Soe Tun said on his official Facebook page that new showroom and car sales centres can apply to his association for a recommendation letter, which it will present to the local government.

Commerce Minister U Than Myint said the supervisory committee will meet with the Yangon Region government to iron out problems. “Regarding recommendation letters, for now we will allow companies with permits to import vehicles. As far as I know, Yangon Region government is analysing the situation,” he said.

“There are traffic jams and other difficulties in Yangon and we will accept the policies set by the local government. As a central authority, we will hold discussions with regional governments and will reconsider customs policies.”

U Kyi Thar Han said he is hopeful that the new committee will come up with a better system. “I hope the Yangon Region government will find the best solution,” he said.