The Sri Lankan tuk has in fact become something of an icon as it is used in myriad aspects. It is an affordable means of transport for small business, providing last mile connectivity for SMEs and entrepreneurs. Three wheelers are a means of affordable private transportation as well, and is increasingly popular in the tourism industry.
As such, the government of Sri Lanka has recognised the importance of this sector to the economy and intends to further empower those involved in the industry. One such example is from the 2018 budget, where we conceived the tourist friendly tuk-tuk concept in collaboration with the hospitality industry. This programme provides for existing three-wheeler drivers to register with the SLTDA so that a three-wheeler would not only be a mode of transportation, but the driver to serve as a local tourist-guide as well. This policy was initiated to create a win-win situation for all stakeholders involved and improve the quality of services provided in the tourism industry. I am pleased to announce that the implementation is progressing well and thus far 589 drivers have undergone training.
The introduction of electric three-wheelers to this industry is another important new policy. There are several reasons for the shift from the fossil fuel tuk to the electric version, and environmental concerns are chief amongst them. As part of the Paris agreement, Sri Lanka has pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in the transport sector by 2020. Among the host of recommendations, one way to achieve this reduction is to convert the existing vehicles to zero-emission vehicles, which would cause minimum levels of pollution and carbon footprint.
The number of three-wheelers in Sri Lanka has increased eight-fold since the year 2000. The fuel consumption per person has increased from 90 litres to 150 litres during the same time. In 2017, Sri Lanka spent nearly USD 3.5 B to import fossil fuels for the generation of electricity and transportation. This is equivalent to around 4% of GDP. Therefore, Sri Lanka needs a longer term sustainable solution to mitigate the negative environmental consequences that arise as well as a solution to minimise the forex outflows from the country.
As a result, the vehicle policy in the 2018 budget too was designed to incentivise to move to a greener fleet of vehicles. The excise tax is structured such that diesel and petrol vehicles are taxed at a higher rate, making hybrids and electric vehicles more attractive. The loan to value ratio for electric and hybrid vehicles is also more favourable to encourage this segment of the market.
Additionally, the import taxes on a diesel three-wheeler will be increased by Rs. 50,000 to encourage the transition to environmentally friendly alternatives. Furthermore, under the Enterprise Sri Lanka credit schemes, the Ministry of Finance will incorporate a subsidised loan scheme to enable three-wheeler drivers to invest in a multitude of additional services including meters, WIFI, GPS facilities, that would act as value-added services that are already provided to consumers; both domestic and tourists. We are also developing a proposal to encourage entrepreneurship amongst the spouses of three wheeler drivers.
I am indeed encouraged by the electric three-wheeler developed by Japan Sri Lanka Comprehensive Partnership secretariat and T-PLAN. It is considered to have incorporated some of the cutting-edge technology available in this industry. I understand that the first batch of electric three wheelers manufactured in Sri Lanka will be ready by mid-2020, in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It is very exciting to hear that T-PLAN hopes to export the Sri Lankan made electric vehicles to Japan. This would be the first of many technology transfer projects that are currently being incubated by the Japan Sri Lanka Comprehensive Partnership secretariat.
Through such policies and projects, the government of Sri Lanka will not only show continued commitment to the empowerment of the three-wheeler industry, but also to achieving long term economic growth through sustainable development.
Id like to reiterate how encouraged I am by this endeavour and I wish everyone involved all success.