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Will M’sians have to pay for one man to revive his old dreams?

Wee Ka Siong
Published:  |  Modified:

MP SPEAKS | Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof announced on Saturday that the government would launch the third national car in 2020.

Redzuan claimed that it could help to revitalise the potential of the national automotive industry and spearhead the development of SMEs – in particular, the auto parts industry.

Sounds good, but if it were to fail, it is not only our economic development that will be dampened, but the lopsided ‘National Automotive Policy’ would also further restrict the development of the auto parts industry, resulting in skyrocketing imported car prices, and ultimately, cause the people to suffer.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad had during his official visit to Japan in June first indicated his intention to commence a third national car project and received much public outcry. He later fine-tuned it by saying that it was a project proposed and undertaken by the private sector.

Just when everyone is curious as to why the government is so enthusiastic and protective of a private-driven project, the third national car had been slated to roll out in 2020. It seems from Redzuan’s statement, the ‘private proposer’ is actually none other than the Pakatan Harapan government itself.

In order to help Mahathir revive his old dreams, the government has effectively ignored the long conception period of the automotive market pointed out by financial experts, and turned a deaf ear to the Malayisan Automotive Association’s claim that “the government restricts the development of automotive parts.”

Instead, it is adamant that its past experience will be sufficient to ensure that the third national car project will not repeat Proton’s mistakes, and drive the spare parts industry forward.

When we were developing our automotive industry a long time ago, Thailand instead opted to concentrate on the vehicle assembly market, which has driven its auto components and accessories manufacturing industry.

Today, Thailand is among world’s top automotive assemblers, having the largest plant in Asia. Why does the government not learn from this?

In order to protect the national car, Malaysia had put in place various unfair policies to restrict and heavily tax imported vehicles and their component and parts, resulting in many manufacturers choosing to set up their plants in Thailand and Indonesia – both of which had since gained tremendously from the resulting boom in the manufacturing industry, as well as technology transfer.

Protectionist measures

Look at us now. The protectionist measures had not only contained the development of our auto parts manufacturing industry, but also made us ignorant about the latest technology employed by the automotive giant nations around the world, other than Japan.

In terms of exports, Thailand and Indonesia export 1.3 million and 100,000 vehicles per annum respectively. This is in stark contrast to Proton, which had churned out its first Saga since 1983, but only manages 20,000 to 30,000 per year.

The last quarterly report of Proton before it was taken private even showed a whopping RM88.205 million loss. In 2017, automotive manufacturing industry amounted to only four percent of our GDP, far lacking behind service and other manufacturing industries.

From the statistical analysis, I really do not see the development potential of an automotive manufacturing industry, but am enlightened that a national car with various incentives and privileged treatments will only disrupt the organic development of the automotive industry and bring nothing good at all.

The National Automotive Policy is equivalent to punishment for non-national car buyers, which will result in more approved permits, a hotbed for cronyism and racial discrimination. The people will suffer all the consequences.

Now, because of one man’s move to revive his old dreams, you and I will have to pay for this again.

Our automotive industry, which was restricted due to the national car, had been left far behind by our neighbouring countries for so long, and we will not be able to close the gap with a yet another national car.

Reality and a postmortem tell us that a third national car will not have a bright future.

The question is, why is the government still oblivious to its high rate of failure, and adamant to build up one man’s happiness on our suffering?

WEE KA SIONG is the MP for Ayer Hitam.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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