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Tibet imposes vehicle tax as car ownership soars

January 11, 2008

8 January 2008
Asia Pulse

LHASA, Jan 8 Asia Pulse - Vehicle tax has been introduced for the first
time in Tibet Autonomous Region in response to a surge in the number of
motor vehicles in this southwest China region, according to local tax

"The tax will contribute to energy-saving and pollution control efforts,
and improve the government's control over the motor market," said a
spokesman of the Tibet autonomous regional office of the State
Administration of Taxation.

The spokesman added the tax, which has been in place in other parts of
China since 1994, would also help narrow the wealth gap, an optimistic
claim given an annual charge of 120 yuan (US$16.51) for a private car
with a one-litre engine, and 360 yuan for engines greater than one
litre, is not a crippling fee for someone who can afford to buy a car.

The central government decided not to impose vehicle tax in Tibet more
than a decade ago as the region was underdeveloped.

But more than ten years on, there were 143,900 civilian vehicles by the
end of 2006 in Tibet, meaning one in every 20 people owned an automobile.

Lhasa, with a population of 400,000, had at least 70,000 motor vehicles
as of last September and the number is growing by 50 a day.

The per capita car ownership is close to that of Beijing, which has 17
million people and 3.08 million cars, despite the fact Beijing's per
capita GDP is six times that of Tibet.

The fast-growing fleet of automobiles has changed commuting life for
Lhasa residents. Some office workers complain they spend an average of
20 minutes more on their way to and from work than they did four years ago.

But there is still no immediate sign of a pollution problem in Lhasa, as
the local environment watchdog said its air quality was good on 363 days
last year.
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