August 2, 2018
A new national car–Massaging Someone’s ego? Just rethink, please
by T K Chua
Don’t let another generation of Malaysians undergo the ordeal of overpriced cars of hopeless quality.
What has happened to all the Pakatan Harapan politicians who were so good at saying all the right things before the election but are now blind, deaf and dumb to all the wrong things being proposed and done?
Why is it that no one of substance has talked about the third national car project so far? Are we really going to toy with this “adventure” again with tariff and non-tariff restrictions as proposed?
Look, a whole generation of Malaysians has grown up and grown old using overpriced cars of hopeless quality. I don’t think another generation of Malaysians should undergo the same ordeal again.
I get it: the car industry is a conduit to engineering prowess and stardom, so the argument goes. But what did we get for ourselves in the past few decades? A perpetually protected industry saddled with gross inefficiency which burdened the consumers to the hilt.
I believe some form of protection may be necessary to support an “infant” industry. However, to be effective such protection must have an unequivocal time frame for its removal. Otherwise, it is just another “rent seeking” and profiteering venture, nothing else.
Let’s not kid ourselves: when “protected industries” gain, the consumers lose – as simple as that.
The Koreans started their car industry around the same time as Malaysia’s Proton. They protected their car market and so did we. After 30 years, I think we know the difference between us and Korea.
Now we are contemplating protecting our car market again! Well, protecting our market to build up the capacity to compete is very different from protecting our market to “skin” the consumers.
Proton made enormous amounts of money in its heydays through protectionism. But where are its engineering prowess, research and development capability and the capacity to compete?
Korea had the same protectionism as we did but with one exception: they knew how to use the window of opportunity to build better cars to compete domestically and to penetrate the foreign markets. Look at the Korean car industry today and look at ours.
“Timeless” protection for any industry is a recipe for disaster; there is no record of a success story on this.
I think it is a little too late in the day for us to be fixated with the car industry. However, this does not mean we cannot excel in other fields.
Let’s not be overambitious and gung-ho in our “can do” attitude. When the chief justice and judges have to clean toilets and when the law minister must personally look at the toilet cleaning contract, I think we still have a long way to go before attaining professionalism and engineering prowess.
I apologise if I have hurt the feelings of Malaysians in general. But I think we are still very much a “chinchai” country.
TK Chua is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.