- Says to allow imports at least for a few selected sectors initially
- Points out local manufacturing and assembling of vehicles not the solution to forex issues
- VIASL stresses if ban continues further they will be forced to close down business and make all employees redundant
Sri Lanka’s vehicle importers have called on the government to pay heed to their concerns, and stressed it is time to conceptualize a plan to rescue the automobile imports sector from collapsing.
The Vehicle Importers Association of Sri Lanka (VIASL) asserted that intervention is sought from the highest level to revoke the current import ban on vehicles.
VIASL official said that while it is understood the ban cannot be lifted completely, it is expected from the government to allow vehicle imports at least for a few selected sectors, such as medical, to start with.
“We want a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to present the challenges faced by us. We have requested for the same but are yet to receive a response. It is important that we do meet him as the import ban has gravely impacted vehicle importers.
If the ban is to continue further, we will be forced to close down our business and make all our employees redundant,” said VIASL President Ranjan Peiris addressing a press conference last Thursday.
He shared that some vehicle importers as well as government permit holders have opened letters of credit prior to the import ban, and they should be provided with the opportunity to import these vehicles.
“Since all circulars regarding clearing of imported vehicles from Sri Lankan ports were published on a retrospective basis, there are several permit holders as well as importers who are struggling to import the vehicles they have ordered and confirmed legally through a valid letter of credit,” said Peiris.
He stressed that the local manufacturing and assembling of vehicles that has been mooted as the solution to the foreign exchange issue is not the solution.
“The process does not add any value to the country’s economy and is merely designed for tax evasion and higher profit margins for a few companies. The local assembling companies mainly import an almost finished product and add minimal value to it,” Peiris pointed out.
“The ultimate victim in this process is the general public who is forced to purchase a low-quality product, which lacks adequate safety and emission standards, at an inflated price. Most of these products are of extremely poor quality and there have been instances where they have not been allowed to be run in their respective manufacturing countries,” he added.
According to VIASL, around 100,000 direct and indirect employees will have to be made redundant while also placing 350,000-400,000 dependents of these employees in dire straits.
He added that the importers, as well as related service providers, are presently facing severe difficulties maintaining their business premises and paying off bank loans, rent, and the salaries of their employees.
Peiris reiterated that a meeting with the President is essential for the creation of a reasonable survival plan that would enable the vehicle importers to meet their financial commitments and employee remuneration overheads.