According to the Road Transport Department (JPJ), there are about 29 million registered vehicles in Malaysia, but only the owners of 19 million renew their road tax every year.
This means the owners of some 10 million vehicles do not pay their road tax, which translates into a lot of uncollected money.
How keen is Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai to encourage vehicle users and owners to comply with road rules? How interested is he in getting much needed revenue for JPJ?
A month ago, he announced that owners of vehicles with expired road tax could renew their insurance without having to fulfil the usual conditions.
Under normal circumstances, owners who allow their road tax to lapse must submit their vehicles for inspection at Puspakom before they can renew their tax.
Liow’s special programme, which lasts until the end of June, enables vehicle owners to renew their road tax with no questions asked. The only condition is that the tax must have expired within the last three years.
Why is Liow not punishing errant road users? If they have not paid their road tax, it is possible that they have neglected to pay insurance or fines. If they are that irresponsible, chances are that they may not even possess a valid driver’s licence.
If Liow starts giving concessions, road users may not understand or appreciate that they are responsible for the condition of their vehicles. How does he propose to hold them accountable for their actions if things go wrong or if accidents occur?
At the beginning of the year, JPJ director-general Shaharuddin Khalid said his department was monitoring vehicle owners from the peninsula who bypassed the payment system and paid the lower road tax rates for Sabah and Sarawak.
He said those who short-changed the system by renewing their road tax in Labuan or East Malaysia were breaking the law. However, he added that it was difficult to crack down on such vehicles as they are seldom seen on the roads. He also said the online payment method made it difficult to confirm where the vehicles are located.
But these sound dangerously close to excuses.
For years, we have heard about irresponsible vehicle owners causing accidents due in part to inadequate enforcement of traffic laws. The law has not caught up with drivers or vehicle owners who fail to pay the fines for unsafe vehicles or violating highway codes.
Does the right hand of Liow’s ministry know what its left hand is up to? What we need is strict enforcement, not a ministry that panders to law-breakers and payment dodgers.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.