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In his latest blog post, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has taken a swipe at the Malaysian Automotive Institute (MAI) for its call to open up the local automotive industry. Last month, The Edge reported that MAI CEO Mohamad Madani Sahari had said that a move towards liberalisation would be a positive one.

“Competition is good as it will benefit consumers and allow local industry players to explore the export market. MAI was established to facilitate this development,” Madani was quoted as saying.

In response to this, Dr Mahathir, who is also the chairman of Proton, said that “if competing is what we have to do to benefit the consumers, we will do it. After all, there are more consumers than people in the automotive industry.”

“If we lose we may have to close down. A hundred thousand or so workers, engineers and managers will lose their jobs. Their families will suffer. But that is alright because the consumers will get better cars at lower prices from foreign countries,” he wrote in his blog, the sardonic tone in his musings apparent.

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He said that in terms of competition, it was good that the Malaysian automotive industry is being steered to compete with automakers from Japan, Korea, China and Germany, but added that these countries impose conditions and standards which prevent Malaysian cars from being imported into their countries to compete. “So the consumers in Japan, Germany, Korea and China cannot enjoy the benefits of competition like their Malaysian counterparts,” he stated.

Dr Mahathir said that Malaysia’s automotive industry was not quite that of these larger industrialised nations. “Apparently in Malaysia some people may not have noticed it. They have not noticed that the Malaysian industrial capacity is not at the same level as Japan, Korea, China or Germany. We may win in a Quran competition but not, I think, in the automotive field,” he wrote.

He used sports as an analogy to define why certain barriers should remain in place. “Some of us may have noticed that in sports for example, competition is between people of the same category by age or in football by division. In golf, handicaps are given so that the competition would be fair. It is always the same in all competitions. We compare apple to apple and not apple to oranges,” he said.

However, if it was the Government’s decision to support imports, Dr Mahathir said “we have to accept it. A lot of Malaysia’s money would flow out to the rich countries and their workers will get higher incomes. So let us compete and let our consumers enjoy the benefits. The people who lose their job would not be able to consume. But that is a small price to pay.”