Used car dealers are calling, once more, for a quota to be imposed on the number of new cars that can be imported for a period of five years.
Speaking with Guardian Media this week, president of the T&T Automotive Dealers Association (TTADA), Visham Babwah, argues that such a move could save the country millions of dollars in foreign exchange.
According to Babwah, there are 500 used car dealers who have been allotted an annual quota of 15,000 cars and who consume 25 percent of the estimated US$200 million expended annually on all car imports.
The TTADA president notes that for the last 10 years, the Association’s members have been working with a quota system, while new car dealers were allowed to import any number of cars per calendar year. He said with the economy sliding for the past five years, the entire annual quota has not been used by TTADA members. He said the used car industry should be given more prominence since consumers now have less money to spend.
TTADA believes that the permissible age of imported foreign-used vehicles should move from 4-years to 6-years and above. Bawah said this move would assist in saving foreign exchange, because 6-year-old cars are substantially cheaper than a 4-year-old vehicle.
Visham Babwah also argues for a ban on the import of all personal luxury vehicles—including luxury vehicle purchases by Government Ministers, Members of Parliament and Government entities.
“Persons have been using combined figures for the new and used car industry when presenting statistics and information for the public and for policy makers. This should not be, since the used car industry and the new car industry are two separate businesses that consume different amounts of foreign exchange and employ different amounts of people,” he told Guardian Media.
“The direct employment from the used car industry is around 7,000 persons. Indirect jobs such as alarms, GPS, radios and related services can run into another 5,000 persons,” he points out. “No government has made any policy that would affect the new car dealers. However, used car dealers are always being squeezed by policy makers for personal and political reasons.”
Meanwhile, the newest member of the National Economic Recovery Committee, former Trade Minister, Vasant Bharath, said Government should consider increasing taxes on all luxury items—including motor vehicles—to put them out of the reach of consumers for at least two years.
Bharath, a former Minister of Trade under the People’s Partnership regime, said items such as caviar and champagne are not necessary and should be hit with very high taxes.