Sri Lanka seeks to restrict import of tuk-tuks

ECONOMYNEXT – Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the government wants to severely restrict the import of three-wheelers as they there were too many on local roads and they were also a main cause of fatal accidents.

He said the government may not be able to totally ban the import, but he had asked Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera to consider measures to restrict the flow of trishaws which accounted for nearly a fifth of all fatal accidents.

"About 18 percent of the fatal accidents involved a three-wheeler… over 300 people are killed in three wheel accidents," the minister told parliament.

He said the government had no intention of regulating fares of three wheelers, but regulations were introduced to make fare meters mandatory.

"The drivers can decide what they want to charge and if the riders agrees, then it is fine. But, we feel market forces will decide the fare, all what we want to do is have some minimum standards."

Official figures show that there are 1.2 million tuk-tuks registered in the country and vast majority of them are being used as taxis.

Sri Lanka’s taxi driver unions and private bus owners have also pressed the government to limit the import of rickshaws saying the market was over-saturated in a bid to limit competition and push fares up.

The minister said regulations will be promulgated shortly to raise the minimum age of a taxi driver from the current 18 years to 35, giving into another demand by older three wheeler drivers.

The current administration came to power claiming to create a competitive social market economy not to restrict competition and economic opportunities of young people, critics say.

The minister said the huge inflow of trishaws on a daily basis had saturated the market.





However, the government will encourage trishaws to convert to electric power. Even busses will be encouraged to switch from diesel to electricity, the minister said.

Sri Lanka’s taxi unions have also pressed the government to limit the import of rickshaws saying the market was over-saturated.

Sri Lanka’s manufacturing sector businessmen also wanted three wheelers restricted as they want to drive more young people to the factory floor.

(COLOMBO, October 20, 2017)

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