Monday, 11 June 2012

The depressing saga of Proton - MARIAM MOKHTAR

There should be a law which compels ministers to move around, using only public transport in their first six months of office.
They should be made to ditch their chauffeur driven, government provided cars with the "free" number plates and police escorts.
Our lives might be different, if these people were subjected to our daily transport problems.

NONEGoing to work by public transport, increases our chances of getting the sack. A relatively simple journey can take a few hours, and the cost is prohibitive. When it starts to rain, the daily grind becomes a nightmare.

Those of us, who had the good fortune to have studied abroad, are used to public transport. On our return to Malaysia, the stress of finding a job is compounded by the complication of getting to and from, our place of work.

In certain countries, owning a car is a sign of affluence, but in Malaysia it is a necessity. Public transport is inefficient and in some places like Ipoh, non-existent.
Nationwide, the common complaints are an insufficiency of routes, decrepit buses, delays and breakdowns. Taxi users face different problems. Bicycling means risking one's life, on Malaysian roads.

 Impotent Spad
Added to the usual transport woes, we have the impotent chairman of the Land Public Transport Commission (Spad), Syed Hamid Albar, who told another online portal that his commission could not punish inefficient train or bus companies.

"What do you want us to do?" was his comment when asked if Spad could fine or threaten dismissals for public transport companies which provided inefficient services.

We know that cars are expensive, because of the various import and excise duties designed to protect cronies in Malaysian's automotive industry. Even Protons for the export market, are allegedly cheaper overseas and equipped with better safety features.

mahathir mohamad hari raya open house 2The price of the car is not the only expense. The cost of running one and navigating Malaysia's labyrinth of tolled roads will dent the car-owner's finances further. The lack of transparency and the inflated costs, in awarding contracts to companies involved in the construction of highways, persist.

In his effort to connect with the rural Malay, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (left) sold them the idea that all kampong folk should be the proud owner of cars.

In his public spat with the west, which culminated in his "Look East" policy, he fed his vanity by embarking on his pet project, Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Berhad (Proton), which he formed in 1983.

With Proton, Mahathir and Umno became kampung champions, whilst the rest of the country was held to ransom by this expensive ego trip. Billions of ringgits were pumped into Proton whilst the country's public transport system remained decrepit.

To this day, Mahathir is still trying to justify the reasons for the launch of Proton. Although he remains the prize villain, successive leaders have continued the reckless charade that is Proton.

Last February, Mahathir made another of his more disconcerting statements, in an interview with Bloomberg TV. He said that "there is nothing wrong with Proton but bad management has caused it to come down.

"We have made money before but there was meddling by politicians and that's why we failed. The CEO was making a lot of profits for the company but was dismissed to put some favourites there."

He also claimed that Proton's downhill spiral was because of car importers dodging import duties which he blamed for "pushing Proton out of the market."

He stressed that he had done the right thing in starting Proton: "A national car is not a need. We can buy cheaper if we just import. But the car or automotive industry generates a lot of engineering skills and can give birth to a lot of other services and manufacturing of components... that can go into cars and other things as well."

Mahathir's hypocrisy is breath-taking.

He engineered the various fiddles to protect Proton and now, he is still trying to defend Proton's existence.
Remove all protection
A Proton insider who prefers to remain anonymous said, "What the government must now ensure is that the rakyat's interest is protected.

"All forms of protection must be removed and DRB must be forced to make Proton competitive. Proton should not receive any more subsidies from the government. As it is now private, it has to compete on an even footing. DRB will be reaping billions from the sale of the Shah Alam site, when they consolidate production in Tanjung Malim.

NONE"Proton should be slapped with the full tariff regime like all other Complete Knock Down (CKD) players. Either that or the tariff regime for other CKD's players should be lowered to match that of Proton.

"This ‘infant industry' argument is no more valid. Proton is 29 years old".

He detailed the hidden subsidies Proton received: RM193.7m (2008), RM 80.6m (2009), RM143.7m (2010), RM297.7m (2011); Government R&D Grants Annual Report 2011, pg 167 and Annual Report 2009, pg 185.

He said, "Proton's reported profits in those years were due to the grants. Without these grants, Proton would have made losses in each year other than 2010."

On 17 May, Mahathir was conferred an honorary doctorate in automotive engineering by Universiti Malaysia Pahang (UMP) for his "contributions to the national automotive industry".

The chancellor of UMP conferred the award in a special convocation in Kuantan and praised Mahathir.

In his speech, Mahathir urged Malaysians to trust and value national brands. He said that the automotive industry was centred on patriotic awareness.

At the Proton Saga launch in 1985, Mahathir trotted out a similar line: "The Proton Saga is more than just a quality automobile. It is a symbol of Malaysians as a dignified people".

Malaysians will be the first to point out that we do not need a car to show that we are a "dignified" people, least of all a Proton car.

There are reports that the Yemeni Prime Minister, Mohamed Salem Basendowah has invited Mahathir to be Yemen's special economic adviser. Salem described Malaysia's economic achievements under Mahathir as a "Malaysia miracle".

It would be truly miraculous if Mahathir did go to Yemen. Now is the time for Mahathir to make a dignified exit from Malaysian politics.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a non-conformist traditionalist from Perak, a bucket chemist and an armchair eco-warrior. In ‘real-speak', this translates into that she comes from Ipoh, values change but respects culture, is a petroleum chemist and also an environmental pollution-control scientist.

1 comment:

  1. You guys are just full of crap!!!