The new national car project mooted by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad must be backed by the private sector following a shortage of public funds, says Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng.
In an interview with the Channel NewsAsia’s Conversation With yesterday, Lim said he had discussed the proposed project with Dr Mahathir and it would not be like predecessor Proton.
“I told the prime minister that we don’t have the money, and he knows it… So it is not from public funds, it’s not like Proton, no,” he said.
“If there are private parties who want to do it in Malaysia using their own money, I think that is something that would be worthwhile looking at, but not from public funds.”
Dr Mahathir announced his ambitions for the project at a press conference in Tokyo on Monday during his official visit to Japan, despite the problems faced by national automaker Proton that he started during his first stint in office in the 1980s.
The previous government privatised Proton and sold a 49.9 percent stake to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group last year – a deal Dr Mahathir had said made him so sad, he “can cry”.
Lim said he believed a private party had suggested the idea of a car to Dr Mahathir and the government has not seen a proposal yet.
Earlier this week, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia would need to depend on foreign technology and partners at the start of this new car venture.
But the 92-year-old said that the government will eventually be able to do everything on its own.
Dr Mahathir, who had vigorously criticised Proton’s sale as damaging to national pride, said a third car project will create opportunities for local engineers.
However, Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin has called the plans “regressive and backwards” in light of the cancellation of public transport initiatives like the MRT3 train link in the Klang Valley.
Pakatan Harapan has been on a mission to trim its debts and liabilities – which it says exceed US$251 billion (RM1 trillion), or 80.3 per cent of the country’s GDP – since assuming government for the first time in the nation’s history on May 9. – Malay Mail