Malaysians are bracing themselves for the onslaught of the GST regimen to add to the misery of Barang Naik. Elsewhere though, Proton has reportedly submitted a request for a RM1.7bn subsidy to the Economic Council chaired by Najib.
According to The Edge (21-27 July), the amount is for ‘research and development’. Actually, it sounds more like yet another government subsidy to the corporate sector (the fancy term used in this case is ‘R & D grant’).
The GST is expected to squeeze out an additional RM5-6bn in consumption tax annually from the debt-burdened people of Malaysia. But in one fell swoop, Proton, which is now privately owned, expects the government to cough up a staggering sum from public coffers.
We have been told that the government can no longer afford to provide subsidies for a host of essential goods and services. But now we see Proton eyeing public funds to subsidise its loss-making cars. In the financial year ending 31 March 2012, Proton incurred a loss of RM606m, and this ballooned to a jaw-dropping RM821m the following year.
Note that Proton is now a private company after Syed Mokhtar Albukhary’s DRB-Hicom Bhd acquired a 42 per cent stake in the firm from the federal government’s Khazanah in 2012.
Why should the government/public subsidise a privately owned car company when we are being constantly told that the government cannot afford subsidies for essential items and services?
Mahathir, the recently appointed Proton chairman, had reportedly said last week that the government needs to reimburse Proton for money spent on research and development. Is this why Mahathir was appointed chairman of Proton – to make it easier for Proton to dip into public coffers?
Proton has already cost the nation dearly – in terms of higher car and toll prices (which has added to the debt burden of Malaysians households), the overall neglect of public transport all these years, and the never-ending drain on public funds to finance this ill-conceived Mahathir ‘baby’.
Say no to more handouts of public funds for private firms. Enough is enough. If at all government subsidies are needed, they should be for public transport, not for a private car manufacturer that will only add to the congestion on our roads and to emissions.