RANGOON — In light of mounting objections, the Burma government will reconsider part of its plan to change, once again, the country’s car import policy.
Zaw Htay, director of the President’s Office, announced on his Facebook page following a meeting with President Thein Sein on Wednesday that industry-wide discontent with the new policy has prompted renegotiation with relevant departments.
He added that the Ministry of Commerce will give particular consideration to imported cars that have licenses issued by the ministry and cars that are already on their way to ports in Burma.
The ministry made the controversial announcement on Dec. 15, stating that the old policy would expire on Dec. 24 and the new one would take effect from Jan. 1.
The new policy states that private passenger vehicles are the only type of automobiles manufactured between 2006 and 2013 allowed for import. In addition, buses, trucks and other vehicles must be manufactured between 2014 and 2016 to gain import approval. The two groups have distinct permits, with importers required to pay taxes according to the vehicle’s list value.
Soe Tun, chairman of the Myanmar Automobile Dealers Association, said that there have been policy inconsistencies between the Ministry of Commerce and the Department of Transportation since the new car import policy was rolled out, including their handling of cars imported in 2015.
“The Department of Transportation should issue licenses to cars imported in 2015 and do so for these cars again in 2016, because these cars will not all arrive at the same time,” he said.
“However, the department said it won’t issue licenses for these cars, which is a major problem. That’s why we sent a letter of complaint to the government.”
Since the quasi-civilian government came to power in 2011, Burma’s car import policy has been changed some 10 times, causing ongoing adjustment issues for many imported car showrooms, individual import dealers and other related business.
“The transportation department has said that it won’t take responsibility [for policy challenges] and to send imported cars back to Japan. This is just really irresponsible,” Soe Tun said.
He added, “There are already many imported cars inside our ports waiting to receive licenses. What we want is to hold issuing a license for them until next year, at which point the new policy would be applied to these cars, too.”
South Korean, Japanese, American, German and Chinese car dealers have recently opened showrooms in Rangoon. Yet Soe Tun said that only 1,000 new cars have been imported out of the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 brought into to Burma.
Ko Tun Myat, a private car dealer, echoed frustrations with Burma’s ever-changing car policy.
“Regulations change every year. How can we possibly follow them? We’ve spent a lot of time trying to obtain import licenses for cars that haven’t arrived yet, and then the [transportation] department refuses to issue them,” he said.
“What are we supposed to do? The government needs to take responsibility for its policy.”
The Irrawaddy called the Ministry of Commerce for additional information, but Toe Aung Myint, permanent secretary of the ministry, could not be reached for comment.