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Sunday May 9th, 2021

Sri Lanka may target old people, poorer car owners in Japan-backed controls: report

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka may bring tough regulations on old cars which are owned by the less affluent and old couples who use them occasionally to visit the doctor or weekend shopping to put them off the road, a media report said.

"Sri Lanka is seriously considering the possibility of removing old 15 years and over un-roadworthy vehicles numbering around 1.2 million from the roads to meet more efficient transportation needs of urban areas," Sri Lanka’s The Sunday Times newspaper said quoting un-named sources as Sri Lanka’s Transport ministry.

The report claimed that old vehicles are a major cause for "road traffic accidents, vehicular congestion and air pollution."

Sri Lanka already has emission standards and if the test is passed there it is not relevant whether the car is old or new.

Due to high government taxes, massive amounts of capital which would otherwise be used for productive purposes is tied up in cars. Especially a used car in Sri Lanka can cost up to 5 to 10 times the price in a free country with higher living standards.

As a result cars in Sri Lanka must run for longer periods to make efficient use of the capital tied up in them.

Hybrid Congestion

Traffic congestion in Sri Lanka, especially the capital is caused by new hybrid cars as can be seen by anyone who drives around in Colombo.

"The reason is very simple. It is only the more affluent who can afford modern, expensive larger cars," an analyst who had been watching developments in the transport sector said.

"They travel more miles per day and users do not even walk to the shop. In fact when they go to exercise in the morning they go in hybrid cars and you can see them parked in exercise hotspots.

"Twenty year old cars are not owned by people who can afford to cause much congestion. They are used to visit the doctor and do some weekend shopping. You can see some older couples going around in 1980s and 1970s vehicles."

The Sunday Times newspaper said the regulations to put old cars off the road was proposed in an masterplan for urban transport funded by Japan.

Japan has road tax system that effectively relatively new cars off the road so that a powerful motor vehicle manufacturing lobby can keep selling new cars to citizens.

A road tax and other regulations go up exponentially with each passing year penalising ordinary people and generating more profits for car makers.

Predictably The Sunday Times quoted an official connected to a motor car sales industry as welcoming the intervention to put old cars off the road.

But there are some concessions to old people and the disabled in Japan.


The used cars put off the road in Japan by state intervention are exported to other Asian nations, Africa, New Zealand and Australia making better use of natural resources ranging from steel to plastic to glass and extending their useful life and that of the planet.

The total amount of pollution caused by a vehicle is not merely a function of its age, but the number of miles it is operated and whether the fuel is diesel or petrol.

Economic analysts say far move pollution is caused by diesel vehicles which are promoted by subsidized diesel in Sri Lanka.

Diesel is under-priced in Sri Lanka by rulers who believe that inflation is caused by diesel, though diesel is more expensive to import, causes more pollution and is now a known carcinogen. This has promoted the use of diesel guzzling, pick-up trucks, vans and SUVs.

Though petrol and LP gas powered cars produces mostly carbon dioxide – a life giving non-polluting gas essential for plant and human life – and water as effluents diesel cars produce a host of additional gases including oxides of nitrogen and sulfour as well as particulates that may be harmful to health.

Volkeswagen is now in hot water for falsifying diesel emission tests in California.

The Sunday Times report said Nimal Siripala de Silva the new minister was also agreeable to the plan.

Easy Target

Analysts say targeting weak members of society who are too old or too poor to speak up may be easy but it won’t solve the problems of congestion or pollution.

Analysts say instead of penalizing weaker members of society such as retired people and the poor, by forcing their cars off the road, rulers who own tax free SUV – many driven by diesel – rulers should look at creating conditions for a high quality, fast, urban mass transport.

It should be unsubsidized by taxes which are needed to put more beds for poor cancer patients sleeping on the ground in the city’s main hospital every night.

Colombo’s poor already use public bus transport, and the less poor use motorcycles but to wean away affluent people driving hybrid cars and causing traffic congestion in the capital, a high quality public transport system such as light rail or mass rapid transit system is needed.

Japan has already indicated to willingness to fund an LRT.

The planned regulations to put old cars off the road comes as pre-1970s cars owned by the super-rich has been exempted from emission tests.

The new administration is also planning to ramp up manufactured exports which would also cause more pollution, rather than leap-frogging further into the services trade. If there a plans to import pollution by exporting backward-integrated hard goods to other countries, taking old cars off the road makes little sense. (Colombo/Aug25/2015)

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