I was really happy to read the Letter to the Editor on the above subject by Sariputhra of Colombo 5. I believe many sensible Sri Lankan readers of the FT who read it would certainly agree on what he had said.
In fact the vehicle permit system is the one which has deprived the Treasury of its duty/tax which today is collected by several middle men for each permit. This is not a secret as the user of the vehicle who purchases and buses a luxury vehicle is invariably not the permit holder who sells the permit to a broker. The broker then sells it to an importer or a monied man who can afford to buy a luxury car. The one who buys it on ‘open papers’ will sell it to a user with a profit.
The duty which would have been collected by the Customs has now been paid to two-three individuals in between! Why is the Government for political reasons perpetrating this abuse?
The solution is to either ban all imports of vehicles or ban completely import of vehicles above say 800 or 1000 CC. The other alternative is to ban all imports for a specific period as Sariputhra says. He is quite right in saying that we have not heard a person dying for want of a vehicle! We have enough ambulances thanks to the Indian donations and the private ambulance services which can be used by anybody for urgent transport of patients. There are enough and more three-wheelers and cabs and other vehicles in addition to the public transport system (which of course is not kept in the best level) and the private bus services which can cater to the needs of the people for a couple of years any way between now and allowing imports (on a restrictive basis anyway if at all) on some future date. Let me add that the import ban for the sake of austerity should be applied to many other items as well on the basis of import substitution at least for some agricultural products. The large number of advertisements appearing daily on papers and the various TV channels offering to ‘help us very generously’ to exchange our old TV to a 55” or 65” inch curved TV and the other luxury items which we can do without is enough evidence to see how much the hard earned foreign exchange (mostly by our poor housemaids) is drained out in luxury items which we can very well afford to live without.