Car dream may be nightmare

Some 1.3 million new cars from the first-time car buyer scheme will be roving the streets in 2013.

People queue up at an excise office in Chachoengsao province on Dec 17 to exercise the right to a rebate under the first-time car buyer programme. The queue of eager car buyers reportedly began as early as 5am. SONTANAPORN INCHAN

Motorists buying the cars will receive a tax rebate of up to 100,000 baht, and the scheme, one of several populist policies of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, is projected to cost the government 90 billion baht.

It is aimed at stimulating the automobile industry and giving first-jobbers a chance to own a small or mid-sized car with an engine size of 1500cc or less.

With public transport in Thailand in such a poor and inconvenient state, owning a car is a big dream for just about all Thais, and the Yingluck Shinawatra administration is making their dreams come true.

Finance Ministry officials see this gift a big encouragement for people to work hard and earn more money to pay the instalment payments on their new cars.

On the ministry's side, it is good news because at least 1.2 million people will have to work harder to stay caught up with their higher bills, while the government will earn more revenue from the buoyant automobile industry.

But for residents in Bangkok and other big cities, adding 1.2 million cars to the streets could turn into an absolute nightmare.

The Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning believes traffic gridlock in big cities will worsen and motorists will take longer to reach their destinations.

The office's own research shows the average speed for rush-hour traffic is 16.5 kilometres per hour inbound and 23.5 km/h outbound.

Imagine how much more time motorists will spend on their commute.

Critics have blamed the government for using taxpayers' money for unproductive goals and say the amount lost in tax rebates would be better used to build more public transport such as a high-speed railway.

Estimates are that 78 billion baht would probably be sufficient to build a high-speed train running from Bangkok-Rayong and would certainly be more than enough for the distance to Pattaya.