When Government passed a law banning the importation and registration of used cars older than 15 years, a lot of car dealers, myself inclusive did the mathematics and concluded that the ban would affect motor vehicles made in 2002 and below.
When you subtract fifteen years from 2018, you get 2003 and so the ban on cars older than 2003 should effectively begin on December 31, 2018 – or so we thought and believed!
However, as the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has gone ahead to implement the ban, it has surprised me and many others that they have chosen to include model 2003 cars yet the year has another three months to run.
I am not trying to find an excuse nor am I against the law that was passed and that is the reason I did not ship any car model that is 2002 and backwards from the time this law was announced on June.
As things stand today, I have about 25 model 2003 car units either at the port in Mombasa or still in transit from Japan to Mombasa.
And so I am writing to add my voice to many other voices who might be in my predicament but have not said a word that Government needs to look at this again and consider the reality of what it really is as they move forward to implement it.
Many like me whose voices I will represent in this opinion piece will tell you that when the law was passed in June, they believed the ban would not affect 2003 model cars – the reason they went ahead to ship them and now they have been caught out.
To give you an idea of what am talking about, I have more than 25 car units (model 2003) that are either stuck at the port in Mombasa or en-route to Mombasa from Japan. And this is also true for a lot of other car dealers who have model 2003 cars still in transit.
If I speak about myself alone, the invoice value on those model 2003 cars that are now blocked runs into tens of thousands of US Dollars! That is capital I have raised doing this business for the last ten years. It is part of my life’s work and it cannot go to waste!
Should the ban stay as is with Government not willing to waver, that is a lot of capital lost and lives ruined!
Considering how difficult it is to raise capital in our economy, I think that even if the mistake was my making, the Government to whom I have paid hundreds of millions of shillings in import and environmental levy fees when clearing my goods (cars) for the last ten years needs to be accommodative and practical.
All I (and many others) am asking for is the extension of the grace period (by the way the three months that have been given are not enough as well) to model 2003 cars that are still in transit or at the port in Mombasa or Dar es Salaam for that matter.
Now that it is clear that model 2003 cars are affected by the ban, am positive that no car dealer will pay a new invoice for 2003 model car.
By extension, when Government grants us this extension, they will collect the taxes that we stand to pay on these 2003 car models. This means that it is a win-win situation for the car dealers as well as the Government.
This is not the time for Government to stay adamant. They need to seriously think about the wider implications of them implementing what is a good law for the environment yes, but what about the people who have been caught out by the law.
What happens next when someone has paid $10,000 for this car but it cannot be allowed into the country? We are not saying that we don’t want to pay taxes or follow the law. No. What we want is for Government to listen to us and understand how our business works.
We want Government to understand us, consult us so that we move together with everyone on the same page as opposed to ruining people’s lives. If this is done and there is wiggle room even as they implement the law, then everyone is a winner. No one should lose out as we move to develop our country together!
Badru Senkuba is a Kampala car dealer. Tel: 0701 140521