Disposing Old Cars Won’t Resolve Traffic Congestion – Junz Wong

KOTA KINABALU: Head of Traffic Psychology and Road Safety, Professor Dr Rozmi Ismail of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, suggested that restricting or disposing the cars above ten years old from roads would be the way forward to resolve the issue of traffic jams in Malaysia.

However, I disagree with the policy suggestion as it would not solve the root cause of traffic jams in the long run.

The main issue is that the government has introduced the passenger vehicle sales tax (SST) exemption during the pandemic to encourage more Malaysians to buy new locally made or imported cars.

Some citizens who initially could not afford or wanted to change cars decided to buy new vehicles during the pandemic as the price of new cars during these two years became more affordable.

The government introduced the SST exemption on June 15, 2020, under the National Economic Recovery Plan (Penjana) programme. Initially, this initiative was scheduled to end last December 31 but has been extended to June 30 this year.

With the extension of car sales tax incentives, more Malaysians will purchase new cars in the next two weeks. It is concerning as the total number of vehicles in Malaysia has overtaken the human population – with an increase of at least a million annually since 2019.

According to road safety expert Professor Dr Kulanthayan K.C. Mani of Universiti Putra Malaysia, there were 33.3 million registered vehicles nationwide in 2021, which is relatively higher than the human population, which stood at 32.6 million.

Of the 33.3 million registered vehicles, up to 15.75 million (47.3%) were cars; 15.52 million (46.6%) were motorcycles.

Indeed, the SST exemption during pandemic times is a delighted news, especially for the automotive industry that complained about their struggle to earn more revenue during the lockdown periods. However, this has boosted the private vehicle ridership further.

Imagine if each family (with four family members) are all working adults in the city centre of Kota Kinabalu, he or she may choose to drive their own cars to work respectively due to insufficient public transport provided within the city. With more expensive Grab fares (1km could cost RM10 in Klang Valley, for instance), more citizens would choose to own private vehicles.

If the old car disposal policy introduces nationwide, more Sabahans and Sarawakians in the lower-income categories (i.e., B40 and hardcore poor) will suffer. They may not afford to replace new cars due to the rising cost of living in recent months.

To solve the issue of traffic jams, the Ministry of Transport Malaysia should look into building an integrated bus network within the Kota Kinabalu city itself, for the convenience of citizens to travel and work. Although the Kota Kinabalu Sentral building started operation at the end of July 2019, it remains under-utilised.

Therefore, now is the time for the Sabah state government and Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) to look into the bus services integration within the Kota Kinabalu Sentral building. Increasing the number of buses available within the Kota Kinabalu city would increase the employment rate within Sabah as more bus drivers will be required to provide punctual bus services to the citizens in Kota Kinabalu. With a comprehensive public transport system in Kota Kinabalu, more citizens will be encouraged to switch to taking public transport in years to come.

Also, the federal government should consider the plight of Sabahans who stay outside of Kota Kinabalu city before introducing the restriction of outdated vehicles as part of the national policy. Vehicles are the necessities for Sabahans to travel daily. They cannot afford to lose their mobility and accessibility to livelihood opportunities.