The implementation of the government’s decision to limit the age of imported vehicles from twelve to eight years has been pushed back.
Contrary to reports that the law becomes effective this week, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said the start date has been pushed back to April.
The change means no car below the manufactured year of 2009 can be brought into the country.
Speaking to the media, Tuilaepa said Cabinet has taken into consideration the requests from local car dealers who have already made orders for cars to be imported to Samoa and will arrive in March.
“So Cabinet has made a decision to wait for these cars to arrive in March and then we will start this new law in April,” he said. “You see, what a loving Cabinet we have?”
But Tuilaepa said the law change is necessary. He said one of the reasons is because of the quality of cars we have in Samoa.
“I always feel sorry for other old men with their new cars, it usually don’t last long,” he said. “It won’t be long until you see the car riding on him instead of him riding in his car because of the quality of the tyres and car parts."
“And that is why we came up with this new law. We want cars that will last three years without a single problem in relation to car parts or parts that need to be replaced.”
Asked about the cars manufactured 12 years ago that are already in Samoa, Tuilaepa said the car dealers should drop their prices.
“If you want fast sales of cars, the only way to do it is to drop the prices. That way the car dealers can get money as well."
“There is nothing to worry about because it’s not like they won’t sell those cars. But the only way to do that is to have a discount especially for those who are not well-off like us. The reason why it’s expensive it’s because they sell their cars at a very high price but the cars are not new.”
Last week, the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, defended the government’s decision.
“We’re doing what we have to do for the benefit of our people,” Papali’i told the Samoa Observer.
“It’s also with climate change in mind. We have to make sure that we don’t get a lot of cars polluting the air through carbon emissions. We get that from old vehicles because they blow out black fumes."
“The other thing is that as you can see, the roads are so congested, there are so many cars. That’s because people can afford cheap cars for $12,000, $10,000 but then I am sure they won’t last. Maybe they’ll have them for a few years and then that’s it.”
Papali’i was asked for a comment in response to a call by a New Zealand based lawyer, Haseeb Ashraf, who urged the government to reconsider its decision.
Speaking on behalf of their family business, Apia Motors, Mr. Ashraf said the government has forced them to reconsider their operation in Samoa.
“It’s going to be very difficult for not only us, but many members in the industry to survive,” he said. “We are reviewing our options and one of those options is packing up. That’s very unfortunate because we employ locals, we give a lot business, and we pay taxes and everything.”
Papali’i said Apia Motors decision to leave is theirs to make.
“If they want to leave then they can leave,” the Minister said. “We have to try and ensure that this is not a dumping ground for old cars so we need to change. We need to go forward and I don’t see the problem with it, it’s just changing the year to ensure that we get better cars."
“We will get newer cars because we’re changing the quality from twelve to eight years. So we will be getting newer cars that are four years better. People complain because it doesn’t satisfy them.”