Overage car import program, one year on

By Aye Thidar Kyaw
Volume 33, No. 642
September 3 - 9, 2012

Customers look at Toyota Probox taxis at Best Car showroom in Yangon last week.
Pic: Boothee

WHAT a difference a year makes. Yangon’s sleepy streets were mainly populated by a mish-mash collection of automobiles where cars from the 1990s were considered new and commanded ludicrously high prices.

Now the roads are overflowing with modern Toyotas, Nissans and Mitsubishis as a result of a watershed plan hatched by the Ministry of Rail Transportation and the Road Transport Administration Department (RTAD) that was unveiled to the public on September 11, 2011.

The plan allowed owners of older vehicles, beginning with those that had registrations at least 40 years old or older and determined by the Myanmar language prefix, to exchange their vehicle for a permit to import a vehicle made between 1995 and 2005. Successively newer registrations were added to the program, with a few hiccups along the way, ending in pazuat-prefix plates that are being taken now.

The next plate eligible for import substitution is balachaik, with several car traders telling The Myanmar Times they expect an announcement soon.

U Tin Maung Swe, RTAD director for Yangon Region said the substitution scheme would continue through September.

“Even though we haven’t received a specific order from the ministries concerned, I think there’s no reason to think the scheme will not continue in alphabetical order, despite what some people are saying,” he said.

He added that some owners in the past have updated their registrations – and number plate prefix – by paying the department, which meant that some 30- or 40-year-old cars are driving the streets with relatively new registrations.

After balachaik, the bagone, la and ah prefix plates are next in line for substitution, he said.

The owner of an old car waits in line to swap it for an import permit in September, 2011.
Pic: Yadanar

More than 48,400 vehicles, including 45,999 passenger cars, were imported and registered with RTAD under the car import substitution between October 1, 2011 and July 21, according to the department.

“The government will move step-by-step to remove old and badly maintained cars in urban areas but it can’t be done immediately because some people will not comply,” he said.

He added that after cars 20 years and older were removed, the government would eventually move on to 10-year-old vehicles.

Brokers at Yangon’s Hantharwaddy car trading zone said average prices for import permits had fallen to about K7.5 million by August 28, from K8 million in mid-August, following a number of news stories in journals that quoted government officials as saying the import substitution program would continue.

“The price is unlikely to fall much further if the number of cars being substituted for import permits is lower than demand,” said Hantharwaddy dealer U Aye Min.

Businessman U Ko Ko, who said he would like to import several newer cars, said: “When an announcement is printed in state-run press that balachaik-plate will be accepted for import substitution I hope that prices will come down again.”

Meanwhile, the state-run New Light of Myanmar reported on August 16 that imported cars will soon be given English language number plates such as “AA0000” but U Tin Maung Swe said only taxis would be given these number plates.