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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

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Penang, Sunday): Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday quashed media reports that the government is ready for a total revamp of the current policy of Approved Permits (APs) to import cars, ending the “prosperous free-ride” of some AP holders,  when the National Automative Policy is unveiled later this month.

Stating that the government would deliberate the matter thoroughly before making any announcement, Najib said: “We cannot be hurried in this AP issue because there are many implications that we need to consider as it is in connection with the National Automative Policy”.

From Najib’s guarded response, it would appear that there would be further  delay in the announcement of the  new National Automative Policy, which had already been  postponed  many times.  Overhanging the issue of the new National Automative Policy is the question whether there will be a new Minister for International Trade and Industry after 18 years.

In deciding on the new National Automative Policy, the Cabinet 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 said yesterday 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.  (Sunday Star)

After the meeting between a  Backbenchers Club (BBC) delegation with  Mahathir over the APs controversy on August 1, the question was raised as to why there was  a  sudden 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 answer has been forthcoming as  the Ministry of International Trade and Industry has lost compass and focus with the self-imposed “silence” of the Minister for International Trade and Industry, Datuk Paduka Rafidah Aziz  in the past ten days.

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.

An analyst yesterday gave  the following examples 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).

Parliament should have debated the APs controversy when I proposed an emergency debate on the last sitting of the Dewan Rakyat on 7th July but it was rejected by the Speaker, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah as not a matter of urgent public importance.

Events have proved how wrong was Ramli’s decision to reject my motion of urgent definite public importance for 7th July, as the  failure of MPs  to debate the APs controversy in its 12-day meeting from June 20 to July 7 is a  “black-mark” for Parliament and proof that it is not yet ready to become a “First World Parliament”.

Parliament should make amends for its failure to address the APs controversy and establish 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.



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

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