Dr M on third car project: ‘If I think I’m right, I will do it’

Boo Su-Lyn
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks at a press conference in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, on November 17, 2018. — Picture by Boo Su-Lyn

PORT MORESBY, Nov 18 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad maintained today that Malaysia would continue with a third national car project, even as he extolled the necessity of protectionism for developing countries.

The prime minister pointed out that Japanese cars were not popular when they first started because they were not of European standards, but Japan improved the quality of their automobiles after protecting locally made goods until their vehicles became the global standard.

South Korea, he said, similarly entered global markets only after protecting their industries, as the country’s first mass-produced car, the Hyundai Pony, failed to be exported initially.

“Malaysians are very scared when the Westerners scold them—they think ‘oh it’s not good’.

“I’m ashamed. I don’t care what they say to me. If I think I’m right, I will do it,” Dr Mahathir told Malaysian media at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) 2018 Summit here in the Papua New Guinea capital.

He claimed that free trade and globalisation were ideas from developed nations influenced by big business who merely wanted bigger markets.

Protectionism of infant industries like motor vehicles, kitchen equipment, and vital goods, he argued, was necessary so developing countries could compete with richer nations that had economies of scale.

Dr Mahathir said a car was a catalyst for other things.

“I keep on telling people that to make a car, you have to make 4,000 different components, and then put them together. It’s not easy, but we have mastered it in a very short time,” he said.

When asked why can’t Malaysia focus on creating the next technological disruption instead, the prime minister said producing a car still required new technology.

“If we don’t have a motorcar project, I doubt whether we can master all the new technologies with regards to design,” he said.

Dr Mahathir told the Apec CEO Summit earlier here today that technological disruptions like ride-sharing and home-sharing platforms and online retail should not widen inequality.

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