KUALA LUMPUR: Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak questioned the rationale of his critics wanting the government to own troubled enterprises.
Speaking at the opening of the China Construction Bank’s Kuala Lumpur branch earlier today, the Prime Minister stressed that it would benefit Malaysians instead to open up troubled companies to investors.
“Some people seem to think that it is better to have loss-making companies that are 100 per cent Malaysian owned — instead of a smaller percentage in a company that stands to gain access into bigger markets, economies of scale and cutting edge technology.
“I ask you, which one will create more wealth and jobs for Malaysians? The answer is obvious,” said the Prime Minister in an apparent reference to Proton, a long-struggling national car manufacturing company.
A subsidiary of the carmaker, Proton Holdings Berhad, undertook in an agreement with the China based Zhenjiang Geely Holdings Co Ltd last week to part with 49.9 percent of its stake in the company.
The agreement, structured to accommodate the Chinese automaker’s involvement in Proton, is expected to be formalized by the end of July this year, a statement issued by the Chinese automaker revealed.
According to Najib, the country would fare badly if it turned away foreign direct investment out of “narrow and foolish beliefs” and a fundamental misunderstanding of economics.
But not according to Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s fractured ex-Prime Minister.
Now the de facto chief of the Malaysian opposition bloc, Mahathir bewailed the “loss” of Proton, saying the sale of the national carmaker was the first step towards the eventual sale of Malaysian assets to foreigners.
“They say Proton is my brainchild. Now the child of my brain has been sold. Yes. I am sad. I can cry. But the deed is done. Proton can no longer be national. No national car now,” a report by the opposition leaning Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted the former premier as saying.
Interestingly, it took a certain A. Jalil Hamid to point out just how hypocritical the former premier was.
In an editorial featured by the New Straits Times last Sunday, the 28th of May 2017, Jalil reminded Mahathir of an attempt by the former statesman to woo Geely back in 2012.
“It was Dr Mahathir and Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, who owns the DRB-Hicom group that bought Proton in 2012, who went to China in 2014 to forge a Proton partnership with Geely. Their bid fell through,” said Jalil.