The price of owning a car in Burma is set to continue falling as the country’s motor vehicle market is brought more in line with international standards, according to Commerce Minister Win Myint.
“What I can say is that the days when you could make big profits from investing in the motor vehicle market are over,” the minister said in an exclusive interview with The Irrawaddy earlier this week.
“It is now possible to buy a relatively new car for just 20 million kyat [US $23,000], whereas in the past it would have cost 15 to 20 times that amount. Before, even a 20-year-old model sold for more than 30 million kyat, and anything newer than that was at least 100 million,” he said.
As the car market stabilizes, prices will fall even further, he added.
The minister attributed the dramatic drop in car prices to the policies of the administration of President Thein Sein, who promised to make car ownership affordable for all citizens.
While good for the general public, the liberalization of Burma’s automotive market has hurt those who bought before the new policies were put in place—including the minister himself.
“I have four Land Cruisers that are now worth a fraction of what I paid for them,” said Win Myint.
“But this is all necessary because we are moving toward a market economy as we continue to democratize, and we have to be ready for the opening of the Asean Free Trade Zone by 2015.”
Responding to rumors that restrictions on imports could soon be reintroduced, the minister emphasized that the reforms begun since last year are irreversible.
“We now work in transparency,” he said, adding that the ministry has authorized the import of more than 60,000 vehicles, half of them as part of a swap program to replace older cars.
With the increase in vehicles on the road, measures will also have to be taken to ensure that traffic congestion does not become a serious problem, he added.
Part of this effort will be to pay more attention to enforcement of traffic rules, he said.
Beyond this, the government is also buying more passenger buses for use by ordinary commuters. “So far, over 1,000 buses have arrived,” he said.