ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake plans to electrify the ubiquitous three-wheel taxis operating in the country by offering owners LKR 150,000 to convert.
The nuts and bolts of the scheme was not disclosed, but the minister during his extraordinarily lengthy speech in parliament said he was keen to reduce pollution caused by three wheelers, a contentious issue with Bajaj for several years.
"To save energy and minimize environmental pollution, I encourage the three wheeler owners to convert their vehicles from fuel to electricity," the minister said.
"Therefore, I propose to make available a concessional loan of LKR 150,000 for the conversion purpose, for fare metered three wheelers. I propose to allocate LKR 50 million for this purpose."
The minister also called for the upgrading of the over one million three wheeler fleet in the country by making them four-wheelers.
"Almost every day, we hear of accidents involving three wheelers," the minister said. "Three wheelers have contributed to improving mobility in the country, but I believe that it is time that we also encourage upgrading the vehicles to four wheelers with 280 cc capacity."
It is not clear what the minister had in mind when he spoke of cars with an engine capacity of 280 cubic centimetres, but it could not be the Citroen 2CV which stopped production in 1990. Even that car came with a 375 cc engine.
Then, it could be the Bajaj RE60, developed by the same company that arguably caused the greatest amount of pollution and misery on Sri Lankan roads with their two-stroke three-wheeler.
The RE 60 with a 200CC motorcycle engine cannot be sold even in its mother country India as a "car" because it simply does not have any safety features worth mentioning.
However, the RE60 showcased at motor shows in Colombo recently comes with "safety seat belts" that will make sure the driver and passengers are firmly held in place and plastered onto plastic seats when hit even by a Maruti 800.
The minister also wants to keep a tab on all motorists by making it compulsory for them to install a tracking device which will ostensibly be used to manage traffic. The cost: LKR 500 million. (Colombo/Nov21/2015).