Commissioner General of Motor Traffic B.D.L. Dharmapriya last week urged the motor trade to go for value addition and save foreign exchange as a strategic move than merely importing automobiles.
“Our economy as well as our society will be facing the enormous task of financing the foreign exchange bill tagged to this increased demand for motor vehicle imports. Though we look at this issue from different angles, all of us have to collectively address it as citizens of Sri Lanka, for the sake of our future generations,” Dharmapriya told the Ceylon Motor Traders’ Association Annual General Meeting.
“It is therefore my view, as well as my suggestion, to your organisation to look beyond being mere traders of automobiles, and possibly venture into value addition to motor vehicle in this country. Such initiatives will, in my opinion, not only save potential drain of foreign exchange, but also will give a supplementary boost to the future growth of our economy. That is the strategic path I envision to sustain the automobile industry of our economy,” the Commissioner General of Motor Traffic advised the members of CMTA.
Dharmapriya in his speech acknowledged CMTA as one of the pioneering organisations with nearly a century old history in Sri Lanka, which has immensely contributed to the development of motor trade as well as the development of the motor traffic regulations and practices in this country.
The Commissioner General of Motor Traffic said that having successfully overcome the 30 year old political instability and terrorism, the economy is now looking forward to take a leap forward. The plans are afoot to drive the economy fast, aiming at achieving growth rates over 8% in the years to come. “All sectors of the economy are gradually being organised to shoulder their share of the burden in this endeavour. We, in the industry of Motor Trade and Motor Traffic management, also have to gear ourselves to face this challenge,” he said.
The Motor Traffic Chief pointed out that increased economic growth is associated with higher per-capita incomes, which will have a direct bearing on the motor vehicle ownership of any society. Sri Lanka, though having been largely dependent upon public transportation during its first few decades is showing an increasing trend to go for private modes of transport. “This trend will grow faster in the years to come. While such growth will be of interest to the Motor Traders and industrialists associated with the sector, it is my belief that we should not forget the challenges that would emerge out of that trend,” Dharmapriya pointed out.
According to him more use of private modes of transport will cause increasing demand for vehicle imports, which will lead to having more number of vehicles on Sri Lankan roads. This, he said, will cause increased pollution and congestion. “Our registered vehicle population at present of 3.9 million with an active vehicle fleet of 2.6 million, is bound to increase significantly in the years to come. How do we face this challenge?” he posed a query to CMTA forum.
“Most of our vehicles imported, especially cars and vans, are reconditioned vehicles. It is well-known that reconditioned vehicles are more emission intensive and use of these vehicles therefore cause unsustainable loading of emissions into our environment. The Government has already initiated steps to control vehicular emissions by gearing its action through my Department to test and rectify combustion inefficiency. For example, we started implementation of vehicle emission testing in the Western Province in 2009 based on an order given by the Supreme Court and now we have expanded its implementation to the entire country except in the Northern province,” he said.
“Therefore, we are already in the correct path in regulating and gradually limiting the importation of used vehicles. At this stage, no vehicle older than 2 years can be imported into our country. It is our strategy to pursue along these lines, and to come to a stage where only brand new vehicles will be permitted to be imported. Thus we can minimise unnecessary emission of vehicle exhaust pollutants to our environment,” the Commissioner General of Motor Traffic added.
He also raised the issue of increased motorised mobility in society needing a larger pool of skillful drivers, and better organised and respected road rules.
“Developing a pool of human resources to face this challenge in the years to come is an urgent necessity of the day. No emphasis is required to understand the negative repercussions of ill-trained motorists to vehicular and pedestrian safety, particularly in increasingly congestive trends. As the principal regulator of motor traffic in this country, I am faced with this huge challenge. It is under these circumstances that I note with appreciation the contributions that are intended to be made towards this end by the forthcoming “driver training model track” at Hambantota, sponsored by a CTMA member,” Dharmapriya said.
He urged CMTA members to replicate the same at Werahera as well, enabling a much wider spectrum of society securing driver training benefits.