Sri Lanka is getting ready to set up yet another regulatory agency at taxpayer expense, this time to regulate three-wheelers and private vans transporting schoolchildren, with a committee of bureaucrats tasked with the matter.
The proposal to expand the regulatory Raj with new bodies to oversee the two types of vehicles were contained in the budget for 2017.
The cabinet of ministers had approved a proposal by Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to set up a committee to implement the budget proposal, Cabinet spokesman Rajitha Senaratne said.
The regulatory body was set up under the guise of ‘improving the quality of service’ of three wheelers and school vans.
Three-wheelers and school vans became popular due to shortcomings and bad quality in the highly regulated bus transport sector, which has prevented innovation and consolidation, some analysts say.
Buses are crowded, seats are spartan and uncomfortable, and passengers go through a sweaty journey. Partly due to regulated prices, most of the buses on the road have been imported from India, built on truck chasis.
Price controls have also prevented night prices and night bus services, forcing passengers to rely on three- wheelers.
Due to the bad quality of regulated buses and the lack of night services (which may be due to price controls preventing higher night ticket prices), people are buying their own vehicles, with the less affluent going for three -wheelers and motorcycles.
There is also alleged corruption on the issue of route licenses by the various regulators in transport as provincial and other authorities are involved.
The committee will look into the matter as some matters regarding three-wheelers and school vans come under provincial councils. It is not clear whether each province will end up with nine separate regulatory bodies.
The Western province for example has its own regulatory body for public transport.
It is not clear why the budget proposed new agencies for regulation.
The new administration has already raised taxes on ordinary Sri Lankans to maintain the country’s bloated public sectors or what critics call the ‘mega state’.