The government of Burma has banned the import of all cars for several years now. In a demonstration of misguided thinking that might even outdo George Bush’s skills of logic, the reason for this is that the roads are so bad, more cars would just make the roads worse. Cars have become fantastically expensive because of the scarcity of good vehicles and because the government has put a 40% tax on all car sales. Our driver’s car would have cost 2 or 3 thousand dollars 6 years ago, but is now sell for $20,000.
The government has just announced that it will allow a few new cars to be imported, but they are only to be used as taxis and car hire vehicles.
This brings on yet another round of complaints about the government. All gas (petrol) is rationed. The cheapest motorbike on the market is Chinese. If you buy one of these with a license, you are allowed 4 gallons of gas a month. If you can afford the much better and much more expensive Japanese bike with a license you get 10 gallons a month. However if you get a bike on the black market with no license (much cheaper that way), then you get no gas. This of course has led to a thriving black market for gas to which the government turns a blind eye. Gas from the government costs $1.50 a gallon, but on the black market it costs twice as much. (It was the Generals putting up the price to $1.50 that started the recent troubles).
Cars are only allowed 8 gallons of gas a month, so now we know why there are so few cars on the road. A couple of years ago, the tourist industry gathered together and petitioned the government for more gas for the taxis that take the tourists around. The government agreed and allowed the taxis more gas. But this arrangement only lasted for one month. So the taxis are almost totally dependent on black market gas.
Most towns or cities only have a very few government gas stations, consequently the Burmese have to allow an hour of their time each week to line up for their ration of gas.