While certain people are getting hot under the collar over the use of the word Allah, Proton, which was privatised to Syed Mokhtar Albukhary’s DRB-Hicom in 2012, continues to receive close to RM200m in “government R&D grants” (public money), according to reports.
CIMB Research was reported yesterday as saying:
We have been previously positive on Proton going into private hands in DRB but the low-hanging fruit in cost cutting has not materialised and we believe it will be loss making if not for the RM200mil in government R&D grants received every year.
Why should Proton still receive these “grants” (which are actually subsidies) when it has been taken over from Khazanah by a listed company (DRB Hicom) controlled by a prominent tycoon? This at a time when the rakyat are told that the government can no longer afford “subsidies”.
Referring to the RM200m annual subsidy, Kamarul Azhar, writing in The Edge (6-12 January 2014), asks: “Indeed, now that it (Proton) is now in private hands, should we still give it national car status and the privileges that come with it?”
The ailing Proton, propped up by high selling prices and government subsidies in a protected market, is of course part of Mahathir’s disastrous legacy.
Instead of trying to compete with the likes of Thailand and Indonesia over which nation can draw in more automobile FDI and produce more cars, Malaysia would be better off in the long-run pursuing more sustainable transport options. For instance, the annual RM200m government grant could be spent on improving the experience of cycling on our streets. That would provide an environmentally friendly, cost-effective and sustainable transport option.
After all, 2014 is set to become the year of the bicycle! (Don’t play-play, okay.) We wouldn’t want to miss out on that, would we?