Car pollution: Jamaica's next epidemicFriday, July 23, 2021
The auto industry, particularly the used car sales business in Jamaica, may be the emerging albatross around the neck of health and wellness. Interestingly, the industry is thriving and very soon, if it goes on without serious restrictions, there will be more cars than citizens occupying real estate here. Is this a sign of prosperity or the frog boiling in warm water?
Since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, I was of the mindset that the industry had taken a fatal blow. On the contrary, through my interactions with some of the players in the industry, I have discovered that the industry is still doing well. Maybe that explains the increase in car marts across the length and breadth of Jamaica.
I also discovered, based on investigation, that many of the well-established and original dealers would not mind if the Government stepped in to put some restrictions on the trade. At least, in their view, it would stop the explosion of wheels that are coming into the island. Their problem is the next and next and yes, the next new dealer. Some contend that it has become too easy for anyone to just set up shop. Additionally, it has become too competitive to make quick and easy sales these days. The glaring irony is that despite the competitive nature of the industry, consumers will not realise any sizeable reduction in prices from most car dealers.
Would the Government of the day even contemplate putting in place restrictions to stop this explosion. I wait with bated breath or should I? This is a huge revenue stream for the Government and it would put a dent in the cash flow from this cash cow. After all, a thriving economy is the showpiece of good governance.
But, has the bigger picture eluded all the stakeholders involved in this auto industry. The world is reeling from the effects of global warming and climate change, yet we in Jamaica don't seem to care about our role in this fight.
Carbon emissions from motor vehicles, globally, have contributed significantly to air pollution and certainly Jamaica is no exception. In refelecting on this issue, I could not help but wonder if First World nations, like Japan, are passing on to us their fossil and carbon problems in the name of the used car trade. Are we the dumping ground for Japanese as well as other countries' junk? Where will the thousands of derelict vehicles be stored or disposed? Is there a solid waste and land pollution dilemma looming courtesy of all these old vehicles? Will vehicular congestion on our already overburdened road network, especially in the urban areas, hamper mobility, industry, and commerce.
What will be our collective response to this challenge?
The Government of Singapore has placed a ban on the importation of vehicles four years and older, while levying very high import duties on incoming cars to act as a disincentive for car importation. Maybe the Government could follow suit by implementing similar measures here. Something has to be done sooner, rather than later. If not, post-COVID-19, sans pandemic, may become Jamaica's car pollution epidemic.
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