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Mahathir wants protection again for proposed third national car

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – July 30, 2018: Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad wants to reintroduce some protectionist policies to protect his proposed third national car project to counter export restrictions on Malaysian car makers that wanted to enter overseas markets.

“Some countries want us to comply with Euro 5 standards, one of which requires our cars to produce less carbon monoxide. Otherwise we are not allowed to enter their market,” Mahathir told the Dewan Rakyat today.

“On the other hand, the previous government had allowed cars from these countries to enter our market without any restrictions…. even cars that are made from tin Milo (Milo cans) can be sold here. There is no reciprocity,” he remarked in reply to Datuk Seri Dr. Wee Ka Siong (BN-Ayer Hitam).

Proton, Malaysia’s first car maker, was started in 1983, during Mahathir’s  first premiership. It is currently co-owned by DRB-Hicom and China’s automotive giant, Zhejiang Geely Automobile Holdings. Before it had its 49.9 per cent stake sold to Geely last year, Proton was heavily criticised for alleged financial mismanagement and failure to achieve economies of scale despite operating for the last 25 years.

At a press conference later Mahathir elaborated that the kind of restrictions he had in mind included imposing standards that could protect the weaknesses of Malaysia’s infant automotive industry.

“We will comply with free trade agreements’ standard taxes for imports and all that but we also noticed that other countries that also subscribed to the agreements somehow managed to prevent imports from certain countries like Malaysia.”

Responding to Mahathir’s view, Wee, at another press conference, pointed out that if the project was to take flight, then it is highly likely that imported cars in Malaysia will be even more expensive.

“As long as you have some protectionism, the cost (of imported cars) will always be expensive as the government will probably need to impose higher excise, import and premium duties.

“In fact, an editor from Malaysiakini, P. Gunasegaran, had come out with an analysis pointing out that the government and Malaysians had indirectly spent RM306 billion to protect Proton,” said Wee.

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Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]