From 2002-2010, the Sri Lankan vehicle population has more than doubled. There were 1.9 million vehicles on the road in 2002 and now there are nearly 4 million. I highlight vehicles because these are not cars*. Over 50% of the vehicles on the road are motorcycles. As you may have noticed, at every single junction.
It’s actually very simple. A motorcycle costs orders of magnitude less than a car. You can get a motorbike for less than 1 million rupees easy. You cannot get a car, besides a Nano, but with tax that comes out to just under a mil. The closest car car is the Geely/Micro Panda which I think sells for about 1.3. It’s important to note that Sri Lankan demand for vehicles is even higher than these numbers show.
New Vehicle Registrations
Look at new vehicle registrations. They spiked in 2010 partly cause the war ended, but mostly because the government dropped taxes (which can be 100% of a vehicles price and up). For a while hybrids weren’t taxed, and they boomed. Two years ago I never saw a hybrid on the streets, and all the Vitz’s were of my vintage (96 I think). Now I see hybrids everyday and my Vitz feels old.
Many people may react by saying, ‘Oh God, more vehicles’, which is true, but consider whether you have a car, or private transport. Seriously, I’ve taken the bus around and it sucks. At certain times fine, but if you’re doing a work commute, it takes literally hours out of your day in rather unpleasant circumstances. If you’re a girl you’re quite liable to get masturbated at and it’s altogether not a working public transit.
At the same time, however, cars are so insanely expensive that I don’t know how anyone purchases a new one. I slowly paid mine off month after month, but when I called Suzuki to see how much a new Swift cost I think they told me 4 million. I mean, what? That’s like $40,000. You could buy a Beamer in the States.
On the plus side, however, the excessive taxation created a possible loop for hybrids and electrics. The government opened that briefly and tons of hybrids sailed through. They’re taxed now, but less.
Cars And Poverty
Anyways, the broader point here was how Sri Lanka has gotten dramatically less poor over the past few decades. The average household income is like Rs. 36,000 now, and that’s not all going to expenses. Food prices have been rising globally so it’s hard to peg poverty to that, but private transport is one measure. By that measure Sri Lankans are wealthier than they were in 2002, and much wealthier than they were before.
Of course, taking young children to school on motorbikes is one the more terrifying things I’ve seen, and I see it on a daily basis. There is no chance that a swaddling baby has a chance in a motorcycle accident, but many parents have no choice. So there’s obviously a ways to go.
Data source: Department Of Motor Traffic
*I myself messed this up in the original title, it’s vehicle ownership, not cars. Car ownership has increased by about 1.6