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2006 Budget weak, feeble and aimless -  neither resilient nor meeting the challenges of ICT and globalisation


Speech on the 2006 Budget (1)

by Lim Kit Siang  

, Monday): Let me start off with an email which I received late last night from a widely-respected  Malaysian political veteran, who was a  Member of Parliament for five terms, Dr. Chen Man Hin, former DAP Chairman, who though 81, is still very fit, doing his weekly HHH runs in Seremban, and who is intimately concerned about national developments.

This is what Dr. Chen said in his email about the 2006 Budget presented to Parliament last Friday:                                                        

“budget claims to be 'strengthening resilience and meeting challenges'.  on the contrary it is weak and feeble, and aimless. 

“1. unaware of problems of people faced with rising inflation and increased cost of living without pay rise or tax reduction. there should be reduction of tax on personal income as well as a tax rebate of rm100 per family per month. employers to be encouraged to give cost of living allowances to pay for increase cost of food and travelling expenses.

“2. to  deal with loss of competitiveness with drop of world ranking from 16th to 28th position, company tax should be lowered from present 28% to the level of hong kong (18%) or level of singapore

“other steps must be taken now to increase competitive power of our industries to meet challenges of rising giants china and india. the pm cum finance minister seem to be oblivious of the possibility that malaysia might become a factory slave instead of being a player and challenger for the asian market.

“a high powered commission should investigate the causes for the drastic drop in malaysia's competitiveness, and take remedial measures straightaway.

“3. FDI (foreign direct investments) are slow and low, only US$2 billion for first half of this year compared with US$ 1 billion last year. Blame should not be purely laid at china's door. what is wrong here? corruption? nep?

“4. multimedia super corridor is supposed to be malaysia's silicon valley which would attract world class IT  and software corporations.  this is not happening, why? it was supposed to launch the country into the information era. if we have insufficient IT and software workers and engineers, how can the msc succeed.

 “5. is malaysia IT resilient? is there a broadband infrastructure in the country? NO! if broadband is not available in most parts of the country, where is the resilience and the power to meet challenges?  A special vote should be made to introduce broadband to all parts of the country to help all malaysians to be IT literate.

“6. With a wired country, the whole country can have more than one msc or silicon valley. S Korea is a classic example of a completely wired country and has become a  technology and industrial giant. Malaysia can be one too.

“the prime minister, should take steps to wire the whole country, and the people can then be resilient and prepared to meet challenges”. 

Dr. Chen’s email reflects in a nutshell the increasingly widespread  sense of unease at the national malaise reflected not only in the 2006 Budget, but also the general lack of direction and national leadership nearly two years after Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has taken over the premiership with his pledge of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, trustworthy and people-oriented administration to create a just, prosperous and progressive Malaysia and won an unprecedented landslide 92% parliamentary majority with such a pledge.

Five months ago, the Prime Minister felt it necessary to defend 18-month premiership in his address to the Harvard Club dinner.  He conceded  that while “not everything had gone according to plan, with malaise and inertia still a problem in certain sectors”, he reiterated that he is committed in realizing the “solemn promises” made in the Barisan Nasional general election manifesto last year – “not made in the heat of electioneering, but rather after careful thought about what needed to be done for Malaysia”.

Abdullah’s defence of his 18-month premiership was  hailed by the New Straits Times as “arguably one of his most important speeches since becoming Prime Minister in November 2003” while The Star headlined “Pak Lah comes out fighting” in its editorial comment.

Such unthinking adulation for Abdullah’s speech and 18-month premiership, however, was  contrasted by unqualified disdain in the  Malaysian blogosphere with many bloggers seeing no hope in the rhetoric becoming reality.  It must be said that the views of the bloggers were not isolated opinions unrepresentative of general public opinion.

I took a middle position, no unthinking adulation and yet not wanting to yield to unqualified  disdain, hoping that despite my disappointments at the failures in his first 18 months of  premiership to deliver his pledges,  the Prime Minister could still work up a “second wind” for a renewed commitment to fulfill these pledges.

I had hoped that this “second wind” could at last be found in the 2006 Budget, the Prime Minister’s  second budget, but this is not the case, as it has not been able to address the growing feelings felt by increasing numbers of Malaysians that something is very wrong with our country and governance.

More and more things are happening in a country  which is supposed  to break away from the malaise of “First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality”, indicating that in many areas of national life, instead of going forwards we are actually going  backwards.

How then explain the following mishaps, tragedies and scandals:

  • Drowning of five-year-old Norlili Mohd Yusof  in February this year when  she fell through a decrepit  bridge into the irrigation canal in Kampung Kok Pasir in Kelantan

  • The death of teacher Chan Boon Heng, 42, who died of internal injuries after falling through rotting termite-infested floorboards at the SJK © Keat Hwa near Alor Star last month.

  • Dengue death toll surpassing the 68 deaths last year when there are still three months to go before the end of the year;

  • The gruesome murder of  Chinese teenager, Xu Jian Huang, 14 in October last year joining a long list of “heinous crime without criminals” in Malaysia.

  • The construction of the KL-Putrajaya Highway which is a mere 2.3 metres away from residential houses in Bandar Baru Sri Petaling.

  • Parliament leaks after RM99 million renovation, and still without full accounting.

  • Crisis of Higher Education

  • Malaysia’s continued fall in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) to   39th placing last year from 37th in 2003.

  • The long-running APs and Rafidah saga, highlighting the woeful lack of commitment to accountability, transparency and good governance, with a Minister whose attendance record is only 20 days out of 390 parliamentary sittings in the past six years.

  • The impending closure of Wa FM, popular radio station when it is only one of four Chinese language radio channels in the country to reflect the country’s greatest asset in the era of globalization – our linguistic and cultural diversity.

  • Malaysia’s  12-point drop in international competitiveness.

When Malaysia’s world competitiveness ranking last year improved by five places and ranked 16th as compared to 21st position in 2003 in the Swiss-based International Institute of Management Development (IMD) World Competitiveness Yearbook (WCY)  2004, the Prime Minister immediately quoted it as authority in his keynote address at the Malaysia-China Business Dialogue in Beijing on 28th May 2004 during his first official visit to China as premier as testimonial why Malaysia was a good place to do business.

But when Malaysia’s world competitiveness ranking plunged 12 places from 16th to 28th position in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2005 in May this year , it was met with a conspiracy of silence and denial syndrome which was only broken by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak in early September -  four long months later.

Speaking at the 10th Civil Service Conference on “Development with a Human Touch: Maximising Human Capital” in Kuala Lumpur, Najib said the IMD ranking on the 12-point plunge in the nation’s world competitiveness has “got the government worried”.

Najib said: “And what’s worse, in terms of government efficiency, we deteriorated from 16th place to a disappointing 26th place. This scenario does not speak very well of our achievements and progress in the last few years.” (Star 13.9.2005)

What Malaysians should be very worried is that the government has taken four long months to end its denial syndrome and the conspiracy of silence to begin to worry about the 12-point plunge in our international competitiveness. This does not inspire confidence that the government has the wherewithal to bring to fruition the promise of a 15-year economic boom till 2020 which the Prime Minister promised top fund managers in London and New York in  Malaysia Global Roadshow early this month.

Instead of highlighting the 12-point plunge in world competitiveness, the national news agency Bernama gave a spin to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2005 when it was released in May, and the Bernama report on the “good news” that the Malaysian “domestic economic performance” had improved from 8th position from 16th the previous year was carried by the mainstream media .

Virtually ignored was the 12-point plunge in the world competitiveness and the even more alarming finding by IMD that for the first time, Malaysia lost out in the international competitiveness stakes to Thailand, which was ranked No. 27 before Malaysia.

The following comparative IMD rankings of Malaysia with Thailand and other Asian economies in the past three years should have got the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister worried immediately in May and not only after four months after the release of the finding:

IMD World Competiveness Ranking

Year     Malaysia    Thailand     Singapore    Hong Kong   Taiwan     Japan
2003         21              30                   4                     10              17             25
2004         16              29                   2                      6               12             23
2005         28              27                   3                       2              11             21

In the past five months, has the government found out the reasons as to why Malaysia is losing out  in international competitiveness to the extent of a 12-point plunge in the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking when the Prime Minister had repeatedly said that his top priority is excellence and the enhancement of the nation’s competitiveness to rebrand Malaysia in the global marketplace?

When Parliament met in June, I submitted a question asking for “the reasons why Malaysia has fallen 12 places from 16th to 28th ranking in the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2005, losing for the first time in international competitiveness to Thailand and the government’s response to this latest development”.

The written reply by the Minister for International Trade and Indusltry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz was so outrageous and unacceptable that I sought to move a motion of urgent, definite public importance in Parliament on 5th July 2005.

The Minister for International Trade and Industry in her written reply to my question highlighted the denial syndrome afflicting her Ministry when she tried to gloss over the gravity of the nation’s crisis of competitiveness by giving weak and indefensible arguments challenging the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2005 and claiming that Malaysia’s competitiveness was still strong when “looked at in a specific and broader context, and not only focused on one indicator”.

In refusing to acknowledge Malaysia’s deteriorating international competitiveness, the Minister for International Trade and Industry was doing her Ministry and the nation a grave disservice, as Malaysia will not regain her competitiveness and fulfill the Prime Minister’s goal of giving top priority to excellence and the enhancement of the nation’s competitiveness to rebrand Malaysia in the global marketplace if the government continues to be blinded by a denial syndrome and refusal to own up on Malaysia’s crisis of competitiveness.

Now, the government will have the excuse to ignore the World Competiveness Report (WCR) because  of a better ranking of the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2005, with Malaysia moving up seven rungs to rank 24th from 31st out of 117 nations worldwide.

Last year, the government chose to use the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2004 because of 16th ranking as compared to GCR’s 31st placing. This year, the government prefers the GCR because of an improved 24th placing as compared to a worse WCY ranking of No. 28th.   The government should not pick and choose the report with the better ranking, but must explain the reasons for the drop in competitiveness whether WCY or GCR.

In fact, Malaysia’s GCR 2005 ranking of No. 24 is nothing to be proud of, considering that Malaysia was ranked No. 16 in 1999, falling to  No. 25 in 2000, No. 30 in 2001, 27 in 2002, No. 29 in 2003, No. 31 in 2004 and No. 24 in 2005.  

MPs are not hounding Rafidah for any personal vendetta as the issues at stake are bigger than one Minister – concerning the fundamental principle of executive accountability, transparency, integrity  and responsibility to Parliament

The Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz through his Deputy Minister has promised to come to the House tomorrow to answer questions relating to the long-running saga of AP scandal.

Her former boss and former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has advised Rafidah to  “tackle approved permit (AP) issue in Parliament and leave less important ministerial matters to subordinates”.

It is most regrettable that Rafidah had not taken the first opportunity to appear in Parliament to give a full and satisfactory accounting of the AP scandal. She should have come to Parliament  last Monday before she left  the next day for the ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting in Vientiane  on 27-28 Srember 2005, and she should have been here today to make amends for her prolonged absence from Parliament – attending only 20 days in the past six years when Parliament had sat for 390 days.

I had issued an invitation to Rafidah for a full and no-holds barred accountability session on the APs scandal in Parliament today, and it is most regrettable that she has not come down  to earth from her aristocratic stratosphere  to account to Parliament.

There is no question on the AP controversy in the Order Paper today but  there is one  tomorrow  by the UMNO MP for Gerik,  Dr. Wan Hashim Wan Teh asking on the efforts of  the government to protect  the national automotive industry from decline and losses as a result of the poorly-controlled import of foreign cars.

With the mountain  of questions which have snowballed in the four-month  AP scandal, it is clearly impossible for  justice to be done to the  AP issue with  one parliamentary question - even if the unusual practice of allowing four supplementary questions is resorted to.

What is needed is a full and no-holds-barred accountability session in Parliament on the AP scandal, with the Minister fielding all the queries.

This is why I offered  Rafidah such an opportunity in Parliament today, promising to  allow Rafidah to have the floor as many times as she wants to give a full  accounting through the parliamentary device of seeking clarifications. 

It is most regrettable that she has not availed herself of this unusual offer and opportunity, which does not reflect well on Rafidah’s role in the APs scandal.

I am surprised by Brendan Pereira’s  Friday  column “In the name of transparency” in the New Straits Times, suggesting that there a campaign for the “public lynching” of Rafidah – which  is news  to me.  Although UMNO MPs have shared with me their disgust and outrage at Rafidah’s handling or mishandling of the AP scandal, I have not detected any move or proposal for the “public lynching” of Rafidah. 

I fully agree, however, with Brendan that “Rafidah does not owe anyone an apology for letting the public know which MPs got APs”.  But Rafidah does owe an apology for the MPs AP  List – for the List’s mischief and malice because of its selectivity, omitting the data  from 1997 to 2000, which was part of my original question, as well as the full list of individual, Open and Franchise APs going back to 1987.

But  Rafidah, her Deputy Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah and Parliamentary Secretary Dr. Tan Yee Kew, all seemed to have agreed that the release of the MPs AP List was wrong, finding  a government officer to be the  scapegoat for the MPs AP List.

Rafidah should come to Parliament tomorrow  to name the government officer who prepared  the MPs AP List, repudiate all decisions  to penalize the officer concerned and give an assurance that the officer would be commended .instead of being victimized.

Just to remind Rafidah of the multitude of APs questions and contradictions she has to confront and address satisfactorily, here are some:

  • why did Rafidah create the three “AP King of Kings”, Tan Sri Nasimuddin SM Amin, Datuk Syed Azman Syed Ibrahim and Datuk Mohd Haniff Abdul Aziz. The three  were  collectively issued 33,218 APs or 50.1% of total AP  allocation  for 2004 and  28,283 APs or 41% of total AP allocation for 2005.   At the average worth  of RM30,000 per AP, the  three “AP King of Kings” stood to make some RM996 million for 2004 and RM850 million this year or a total of RM1.8 billion for these two years.  What is the total number of APs issued to the three “AP King of Kings” since 1988?

  • On July 19 2005,  after chairing the Wanita Umno exco meeting in the morning (before she knew that the first APs list would be released  by the Prime Minister’s Office in the evening), Rafidah denied any wrongdoing in issuing APs to import cars and dismissed talk that she was connected to any AP holder.  (New Straits Times 20.7.05).   She even invoked  the Quran with the declaration: “I have no connection with any of the AP holders in terms of being related or in other aspects”! Why did Rafidah hide the fact that her niece, Annie Tajul Arus was given the Franchise AP in 2004 to import 850 Kleemann cars and 199 for 2005? Has  the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) investigated  whether any conflict-of-interest or corruption offence had been committed?

  • UMNO Youth Exco member Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir had said  that Rafidah had not given to former Prime Prime Minister, Tun Dr.  Mahathir Mohamad the list of AP holders  in her July 8 written explanation to the former Prime Minister  as directed by the Cabinet, although she had given Parliament and the country the clear impression that she had done so in her “pretty long” letter to Mahathir, with “about 10 indices attached on every issue that was raised”.

  • Why the APs list, whether for 2004 or 2005, were  incomplete when released. Mahathir had pointed out that the 2005 APs list was incomplete. As for the 2004 APs list, Rafidah had said  in South Africa that the list would be released “in its entirety”, including the list of showrooms of the AP holders. (Star 28.7.05) This had not been done.

  • Rafidah told the UMNO annual general assembly that when she was first appointed MITI Minister  in 1987, she revoked the APs given to 153 companies on grounds that the companies were not operational, no showroom, improper management of accounts and APs were sold to non-bumiputeras – resulting in only 76 companies currently still receiving Open APs.  Why is Rafidah so coy in listing the number of showrooms owned by each Open AP holder since 1988?

  • Why Rafidah did not revoke a single AP in the past 17 years after the 1988 revocation, despite rampant AP abuses, including under-declaration of the value of cars imported under the AP system, resulting in the country losing over RM1 billion a year in revenue?

  • The shocking revelation by Mahathir that  there was no official announcement of the new category of APs, the Franchise APs, when Rafidah introduced it in 1997, and that he had not known about it although he was the Prime Minister.

  • The reluctance of Rafidah to make public all the  APs lists for the past 35 years since the introduction of APs in 1970, including during the period Mahathir was Minister for Trade and Industry from January 1978  to July 1981,  in line with Abdullah’s  pledge for accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.

  • Was Rafidah herself a recipient of the AP system and if so to give particulars.

The Cabinet meeting of August 10, which Rafidah attended after absenting four consecutive Cabinet meetings,  created considerable confusion when it imposed a clamp on Rafidah from having to answer the media’s questions on the AP scandal.

Was the clampdown inclusive of  Parliament on all questions about accountability, transparency and integrity concerning the  issuance of APs in the past 18 years.  The impression after the Cabinet meeting was that Rafidah had been stripped of the APs responsibility.

I had stressed at the time that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet have the powers to strip Rafidah of two strategic functions of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, i.e. the drafting of the National Automotive Policy and the review of the issuance of APs, but they cannot impose a blanket ban on all public discussion and demand for accountability for her mishandling of the AP issue for the past 18 years – which would be unfair to both the Malaysian public as well as to Rafidah herself.

Such a clampdown  run in direct  counter to the pledge by Abdullah to lead an administration which is people-oriented,  clean, incorruptible, accountable and trustworthy as well as setting the most undesirable precedent of  granting Rafidah immunity and impunity from any abuses and excesses of ministerial power. Many people asked whether this would be “the fourth time” Rafidah is to be “saved” by a serving Prime Minister?

Will Rafidah come tomorrow and plead that she had been barred by Cabinet from giving answer to any question on AP?

If the Cabinet had imposed such a clampdown, it should be removed as Rafidah should neither be denied the right to defend herself, including making public her 29-page explanation she had prepared for the Cabinet, nor provided with immunity and impunity from accountability and transparency for her 18-year AP responsibility.

The confusion galore as to whether Rafidah had been stripped of AP powers and responsibilities could be gauged by the statement made by the  Barisan Backbenchers Club Chairman Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad shortly after the Cabinet meeting  calling  for Rafidah’s  resignation as  Minister for International Trade and Industry  for commenting on the AP  issue despite a cabinet “gag” on her. Shahrir said  Rafidah   should quit if she finds it hard to respect the cabinet’s decision not to comment on the issue of AP and that she “should stop making a fool of herself by talking about matters which are no longer under her ministry”.

Everybody thought that Rafidah had been stripped of the APs responsibility, until she went to Singapore at the end of August to announce that  the issuance of APs and the automotive industry are still under the jurisdiction of her Ministry – that there is “no change at all from before”. The difference now is that Prime Minister is chairing a meeting of four ministers -  the International Trade and Industry, Transport, the minister in charge of the Economic Planning Unit and the Second Finance Minister - to take a comprehensive look at the automotive industry.

So what did the Cabinet decide on the APs scandal on August 10?  Just to protect Rafidah from public accountability by imposing a clamp-down on media questions to her?

Rafidah did not explain why she had to go abroad to declare that her Ministry  is still in charge of the  APs portfolio or why she chose to  make her first admission that there had been abuses in the issuance of APs  when she was in Singapore.

Why then did Rafidah break down at the National Day Celebrations where she cried while embracing Tun Dr. Mahathir?  Is it related to the return of seven cars  by Dr. Mahathir  to Proton Bhd, which became national headline news on the eve of National Day, a strong signal that the APs issue was not going to go away  as far as the former Prime Minister was concerned -  which could only mean that Rafidah could not just pretend that the APs issue is no more or behind her?

With Rafidah’s announcement that her Ministry is still in charge of APs, it was most remiss on her part to evade  full accountability of the abuses and excesses of the issuance of APs in her 18 years as Minister for International Trade and Industry.

Rafidah had prepared a 29-page explanation for the Cabinet to defend her stewardship of APs to import cars.  She should table this explanation as a White Paper in Parliament including a full list of the APs issued each year, whether open, franchise or individual APs going back to 1987 and agree to  a full parliamentary  debate to demonstrate that she has nothing to hide on this subject.

When she comes to Parliament tomorrow, Rafidah should account for her  rare appearances in Parliament.  Rafidah said she had to be away from the country several times this year, seven times on visits with the Prime Minister and 10 times on trade mission.

Two observations are in order:

Firstly, her official functions abroad should be matched with the parliamentary schedule to ascertain whether they justified her abysmally low parliamentary attendance record.

I gave further particulars of her  dismal attendance in Parliame

Total Parliamentary sittings  Rafidah’s attendance

2000                              79 days                                   2 days

2001                              71 days                                   5 days

2002                              64 days                                   2 days

2003                              67 days                                   6 days

2004                              63 days                                   2 days

2005                             46 days so far                           3 days

Secondly, putting aside overseas functions which are  outside her power to decide on the dates, why couldn’t Rafidah arrange her missions abroad to minimise or avoid altogether  clashes with the parliamentary time-table which are circulated to Ministers more than a year in advance.

New National Automotive Policy should incorporate timeline to phase out APs so that Malaysian consumers do not have to continue to  pay more for cars  in Malaysia than other countries after more than two decades of  Proton protection

The much-postponed new National Automative Policy, which has again been postponed to this month from last month, should  should ensure the incorporation of at least two elements, transparency and protection of the interests of the Malaysian consumers.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad  has said that it would be “interesting” to study the APs list for imported cars for 2003 and 2002 because the numbers then were not as big as those given last year and this year.

The  question was raised as to the reason for the   sudden three-fold jump of APs issued from 20,000 in 2002 and 2003 to over 60,000 in 2004 and 2005.

Such a simple query should have been easily clarified by a government which believes in accountability and transparency.  Unfortunately, no satisfactory  answer has been forthcoming as  the Ministry of International Trade and Industry seems to have lost the  ability to communicate with the ordinary rakyat, let  alone MPs.

There must not only be  transparency, the  new National Automative Policy should also incorporate a  timeline to phase out APs  to abolish  the AP system for car imports so that Malaysian consumers do not have to continue to  pay more for cars  in Malaysia as compared to  other countries after more than two decades of  Proton protection.

Car prices in Malaysia are one of the highest in the world in money terms and even higher in relation to our modest per capita income, as a result of Proton protection.

A Honda City for instance cost over RM80,000 in Malaysia but only about half the price at the RM40,000 price range  in Thailand.The following examples have been given to  illustrate how the Malaysian car purchaser is “thoroughly fleeced” as the result of APs protection for Proton:

A Toyota Camry goes for A$32,000 (RM92,000). In Malaysia it is RM170,000. 
In the US, a top range Mercedes retails for US$50,00 (RM190,000) while in Malaysia it exceeds RM450,000.

In the 70s, the car-to-monthly wage multiple (for a recently qualified graduate) was low, at about 10 (10 months’ wages). This crept up to about 15 in the 80s, and is now almost 40 (i.e. 40 months’ wages for the graduate’s first car).

I reiterate my call for a Parliamentary Select Committee on International Trade and Industry to give input as well as to  monitor the National Automotive Policy, especially with regard to the two elements of transparency and the time-span for the abolition of APs for imported cars to allow Malaysian consumers to buy cars of comparative price and quality as in other countries.

Two recent news in the automotive world should be food for thought  for Cabinet Ministers mulling over the options for a new National Automotive Policy, viz:

General Motors Corp plans to buy US$1 billion worth of automobile parts from India each year by 2008 as part of cost-cutting efforts at the world’s biggest automaker.  GM is among several automakers – including Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, Volkswagen AG – that are sourcing auto parts from low-cost countries because of tough competition and rising cost of materials.  It is reported that auto parts in India cost 25-30 per cent less than in North America or Europe, and are also around 15 per cent cheaper than South Korea and Mexico but the quality is on par.  Malaysia does not appear in the radar of such international sourcing of auto-parts by the global automobile giants.

In the first six months of 2005, about one-third of  Thailand’s total vehicle production of 517,829, which includes over 350,000 trucks, were exported. In 2004,  over  332,000  vehicles - one-third of Thailand’s total vehicle production for the year of  927,981 vehicles, which includes 597,914 trucks - were exported to destinations ranging from Argentina to South Africa.   In contrast, Proton exported 17,243 units for the financial year ending March 2005 as compared to 7,338 units the previous year.

These two snippets are fresh reminders as to how after two decades of protection, forcing one whole generation of Malaysians to buy cars which are more expensive and of lower quality than those available in  other countries, Proton is still so uncompetitive that there are calls for another generation of 20-year protection for Proton.

One important question that  must be decided in the new National Automotive Policy is the future of Proton. If the  Cabinet cannot take the decision on  Proton’s  relinquishing majority stake and control in a strategic partnership with a foreign partner, so that Proton can become truly competitive and face up to the challenges of globalization, then the Prime Minister should allow the decision to be taken by Parliament.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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