- From: pluto <pluto@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 01:17:49 +0800
Aug 14, 2005
After jumping to the defence of car import permits for bumiputeras, she now
says the controversial scheme should be scrapped
KUALA LUMPUR - SHE once broke down in tears defending the scheme but now
Malaysia's Trade Minister wants the controversial luxury car import permits
July 19 - 'At the moment, this is the most workable system.'
The back-flip came after a storm of allegations that the policy was misused
to benefit a few well-connected businesses.
'To me, the entire system should be abolished,' Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz
said at a seminar late on Friday.
'It goes against the World Trade Organisation agreement.'
The hard-nosed minister, who has been dodging the press for the past few
weeks, did not elaborate.
Asked to comment, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said yesterday: 'That is
her personal opinion. I don't take it into account.'
Datuk Seri Rafidah's about-turn comes at a time when the issue has been
taken out of her hands and assigned to a special Cabinet committee headed
by the Prime Minister.
Aug 12 - 'To me, the entire system should be abolished.'
On several occasions this year, including at last month's Umno general
assembly, she had defended the system of issuing Approved Permits (APs) for
car imports as being the best way to encourage bumiputera entrepreneurship
in the automotive industry.
APs are issued to ethnic Malay-owned companies as licences to import
foreign cars. The scheme was meant to help Malays catch up with the
economically dominant minority Chinese.
But Datuk Seri Rafidah's ministry has been accused of awarding APs to only
a few businesses, including those close to her.
At the Umno assembly, she shed tears while denying any wrongdoing. She also
gave a lengthy explanation on the AP policy at last week's Cabinet meeting.
In a commentary yesterday, New Straits Times chief editor Kalimullah Hassan
said she was unable to convince the Cabinet about the validity of the
grounds for giving a large number of APs to two former officials who had
worked under her.
He speculated that she might even lose her job, which she has held since
1987, over the issue.
'Unfortunately, Rafidah's tenure today has become almost untenable unless
she can pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat and turn back the tide of
negative sentiment against her,' he said.
The government said there are weaknesses in the AP scheme and pledged to
revamp the policy as part of a national automotive policy to be announced
The Star newspaper's chief editor Wong Sulong wrote that Datuk Seri
Rafidah's call to abolish the AP policy is causing consternation among
local car manufacturers and assemblers, who fear the free import of cars
would devastate their business.
Former Proton chief Mahaleel Ariff told The Star that Malaysia is opening
its car market to foreign competition more quickly than necessary, risking
national car Proton's future with needless competition.
The indiscriminate issue of APs and the special treatment accorded to South
Korea's carmaker Kia had made things difficult for Proton, he said.
Tengku Mahaleel, who has opposed selling a significant stake in Proton to
any foreign company, said there had been many proposals from 'Malaysian
entrepreneurs and the world's largest companies', including Singapore's
state investment firm Temasek and Germany's Volkswagen, to buy the company.
'Surely these companies are not foolish with their money...So there must be
something very good in this Malaysian jewel,' he said. -- New Straits
Times, The Star/Asia News Network, AP
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