Citing the potential environmental disaster that the heavy influx of aged vehicles into the Turks and Caicos Islands could soon have on the environment, the Washington Misick administration has moved to slap a ban on the importation of all vehicles over 10 years old.
A ban will also be placed on the importation of used tires, except for heavy equipment.
As a gesture of economic cushioning though, the government has decided to reduce customs tariffs on the importation of all vehicles except for electric and hybrids, by 25 percent.
A 25 percent customs tariff reduction will also be applied to imported new tires.
Further explaining government’s decision to make such a drastic move, Deputy Premier Hon. E. Jay Saunders, told NewslineTCI that cheap used cars imported from Japan and retread tires are already bearing down negatively on the environment.
He pointed to many instances where owners permanently abandoned their imported used cars in public areas, including roadsides, because they have broken down.
He said if government does not move now to arrest the situation, such inaction would be akin to mortgaging future generations, and they were not prepared to let that happen.
“The problem is getting worse, especially with the reconditioned cars…the right-hand drive…the Japanese cars,” Saunders explained. “And because they are so cheap, people are buying them by the dozens. And you hear of a trailer load of cars arriving at the docks and people are not clearing them.”
He continued: “The cars are so cheap, you can get them for $3,000, to $5,000, and when they breakdown, people replace them because they are so cheap.
“They are piling up, and so, if you reactively try to solve the problem, you are going to have yourself facing an environmental disaster. You are going to have hundreds of thousands of cars piling up on the island that you can’t get rid of.
“You are going to run out of space to be able to dump them…and we just don’t have the facilities here to reclaim matters, and so, if we don’t deal with it now, within 20 years we are going to have a huge problem as a country.”
Saunders pointed out that vehicles that are collectors’ items, as well as purpose vehicles over 10 years old are not included in the ban.
“We just don’t want people buying a car for a year or eighteen months and then dump them,” he affirmed.
He pointed out that the problem of imported used tires are a huge problem, as they accumulate on the dump in an alarming fashion.
“The life of a used tire is less than 50 percent of that of a regular tire. It may give you a year…I don’t know if it is that long. And so, if you are going through three/four used tires that it takes you to go through a brand-new tire…while it may be cheaper for you, you are paying a huge tax when it comes to the environment,” he argued.
He pointed out that the current administration’s philosophy is taking proactive approaches, rather than reactive ones.
"This island (Providenciales) is a beautiful island, but there are parts of it which are car graveyards. The idea is, don’t wait until it becomes a problem…solve it before it becomes a problem,” the minister asserted.
He explained that because some people do not see the potential disaster coming, it would almost be impossible for them to see the mitigating measures, and so, would not award credit where credit is due.
“This (importation of old cars and used tires) is one of the things we are going to avoid as a disaster, so people will not understand the benefit of it,” he said.