Shaw promises auto inspection transparency
Minister of Finance Audley Shaw is assuring auto dealers that the pre-inspection of used car imports would be transparent, in an effort to allay concerns that the new arrangement to take effect February 1 would be disruptive to their businesses.
The minister noted that the system will be backed up by a reporting structure that ultimately protects the purchasers of the imported vehicles.
Shaw's assurance came in response to Lynvalle Hamilton's presidential address at the annual general meeting of the Jamaica Used Car Dealers Association (JUCDA) last Thursday night. Hamilton, who was re-elected as president of JUCDA for the eighth time, complained that the concerns of dealers were yet to be addressed.
He said the group first broached their concerns in August 2017, including a possible breach of the rule of current law and abuse of process.
"JUCDA is in support of any move to improve the integrity of the industry and avert saturation of the market," said Hamilton. However, he added, "the government must be liable for any misrepresentation that occurs". He said too that the members of JUCDA would not be signing any releases that absolve
government agencies of their liability for errors.
REVISED IMPORT POLICY
The pending pre-inspection system was first disclosed by Industry Minister Karl Samuda in May 2017 during the sectoral debate in Parliament. He said provision for it was included in the revised Motor Vehicle Import Policy that was adopted in April 2014.
The government has contracted a foreign company to inspect used vehicles at their point of origin and prior to entering Jamaica's port, the intent of which is to curtail tampering with the odometer and other elements of the vehicle prior to sale.
Minister Shaw, who was a guest speaker at JUCDA's meeting Thursday, said the pre-inspection system would be implemented as planned.
"I want to say to you, though, that the government has taken a decision, and at the end of the day it's about protection of
consumer rights," the finance minister said.
"The pre-inspection programme will be done under highly transparent circumstances. A report will be issued to the Trade Board and ultimately that report will be issued to the consumer."
The inspector hired by the government - which is identified on the Trade Board's website as Autoterminal Japan Limited - will run checks regarding: the history of vehicle, including accidents and major repairs; conformity to age limit and model year; roadworthiness; radioactive/microbial contamination and odometer readings, among others.
The used car market is estimated at around $100 billion by annual imports. Hamilton said in his address that Japan remained the main source of motor vehicle imports to Jamaica, with 97 per cent of vehicles coming from that source.
Globally, he said, Jamaica ranked No. 13 out of 181 countries to which Japan exported cars, but was No. 1 among Japan's Caribbean markets, with 31,253 cars imported between January and November 2017; followed by Trinidad and Tobago in second place, with 8,025 vehicles during the same period.
Shaw said in his address that the used car industry had matured under the government's policy decision to cut applicable taxes and duties from a high of 130 per cent down to 60 per cent.
Used car dealers currently contribute approximately $5 billion in taxes to government coffers annually, JUCDA officials said at the meeting.