The agonizing daily commute in public transport has continued to drive the Sri Lankan public towards acquiring some form of personal vehicle no matter how much such purchases have become difficult with the current economic conditions in the country.
The latest vehicle registration data for August showed that 39,339 vehicles of all categories have been registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, out of which 29,579 were motor bikes— little changed from previous months—data compiled by JB Securities, a Colombo based stockbroking firm showed.
This is not much of a difference from the 39,669 units registered during July and 41,797 units registered in the same month a year ago, when the conditions were relatively softer for a person who aspired to own a vehicle of his own.
The largely stable numbers reflect the phenomenon of growing middle income class, frustrated with the poor state of the public transport system, shifting to personal transport depending on their income levels.
Sri Lanka’s policy makers at the beginning of the year made owning a personal vehicle difficult by imposing higher down payments and raised interest rates to cut consumption, which they believed was unproductive.
The decision was however taken after keeping the flood gates open for almost two years by running easy monetary and fiscal policies, which ultimately pushed the country towards a balance of payments crisis.
In August, Sri Lanka has imported
3,286 motor cars— both pre-owned and brand new— up from 3,220 in July and 3,009 units in August last year.
Under pre-owned category, small car segment share increased from 46 percent to 50 percent, while Hyundai observed significant growth in the ‘EON’ car and Datsun observed a resurgence in growth of their ‘Redi Go’, in the brand new category.
Three-wheeler registrations also rose to 2,098 units from 1,788 units in July but significantly down from 4,355 units in the same month in 2016.
Three-wheelers, apart from being popular and easy passenger carrying vehicles which beat the traffic jam in Colombo and elsewhere, they also assists the gig economy and is a personal vehicle for a family of four.
However, in Sri Lanka, a large number of road accidents are caused by three-wheelers and two-wheelers, due to the little regard drivers of these vehicles have for road rules and speed limits.
Meanwhile, despite the authorities reducing the down payments for light trucks and single cabs in June to stimulate the informal sector, it appears that this hasn’t had much impact on the number of such vehicles registered.
There were 255 mini-trucks and 174 light trucks registered during August, little changed from the previous month.
The country has been begging for a sustainable transport policy for decades with a multi-model public transport system at the centre of such a policy, which could save millions of productive man hours wasted on the road.