The Vehicle Importers’ Association of Lanka (VIAL) yesterday charged that bureaucrats with vested interests within the Department of Customs is costing the Government, its membership, and the public millions in revenue.
At a media conference, VIALclaimed the Nomenclature (NC) Committee headed by a senior official at the Department had classified the popular Suzuki Wagon R vehicle as a non-hybrid petrol vehicle, whereby the Motor Vehicle division is forced to applya higher petrol vehicle duty for these vehicles. This anomaly is now taking place despite 55,000 Wagon R’s of the same specification already imported into the country, and over 200,000 other vehicles of similar category reaching Sri Lankan shores as hybrid vehicles, the Association charged.
VIAL President Sampath Merenchige said the Association is unaware of the reason behind the decision of the said official and the NC Committeefor this action, which had also been extended to the new C Class Mercedes Benz. He added that the Association had made representations to the Director General of Customs on the matter, but claimed she is unable to take conclusive action due to activities of said senior officials. The Association has also engaged the Ministry of Finance to find solutions to the matter. The actions of the NC Committee come despite assurances and specifications provided by the vehicle manufacturer that it is a hybrid vehicle, the Association added.
Merenchige added that the Wagon R was the most affordable new car to lower income segments of the country who are yet hard-pressed to purchase the vehicle due to the growing tax slabs on motor vehicle imports. Accordingly, with the classification of the Wagon R under the fully petrol vehicle segment, these vehicles too would go beyond the reach of their customers, he said. Such arbitrary and unwarranted action would also severely impact government earnings from vehicle imports in a year the Government is hoping to earn much-needed revenue from vehicle imports, he added.
The Director General of Customs has reportedly issued a temporary approval to import these vehicles under the HS 8703.40.28 hybrid technology category, and called for a technical report on the technology employed by these vehicles. The Association charged that due to the actions of “weak administrators” within the Department of Customs, “it will become difficult to import any hybrid vehicles into the country, even though they are accepted internationally”, with proven advantages to the economy and the environment. (By Darshana Abayasingha)