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Vehicle import ban: Importers to begin talks with Govt. 

21 Jan 2021

By Sumudu Chamara   Sri Lanka’s vehicle importers are planning on holding discussions with topmost government officials in the coming few weeks, with the aim of reaching a collective agreement with the Government to resume the importation of vehicles. The Government last year imposed a vehicle import ban in a bid to save the Covid-19-hit economy by curtailing foreign currency outflow. According to the Vehicle Importers’ Association of Sri Lanka (VIASL), there is an urgent need to take a concrete decision regarding the resumption of vehicle imports, as vehicle importers as well as customers have been greatly inconvenienced due to the declining vehicle stocks, and also the consequent vehicle price hikes. VIASL President S.K. Gamage told The Morning that the vehicle importers acknowledge the reasons why the ban was imposed, and that they are prepared to hold discussions with the Government to come to an agreement that is beneficial to both vehicle importers and the Government. He added that vehicle importers have run out of inexpensive motor vehicles, which are in high demand.  He went on to say that, taking into account the huge loss suffered by the Government due to the loss of tax income, alternative solutions should be discussed, and that one of the solutions would be to permit the importation of a limited number of vehicles, for an increased tax. “Even if the Government decides to opt for such tax, importers would still be able to provide vehicles for prices lower than the current market prices.” Even though the initial ban on vehicle imports was imposed only as a short-term measure, the Government later announced that vehicle imports would be restricted for another two years. They also ruled out a possible vehicle shortage by stating that the country has enough vehicles in stock for the next two years.  In 2019, Sri Lanka spent about $ 815.7 million on vehicle imports, compared to $ 1.5 billion the previous year. In August, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL) stated that expenditure on motor vehicle imports declined by 80.9% due to the import restriction measures taken by the Government and the CBSL since March 2020.

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