It was highlighted that the new contract, which is under the Finance Ministry, would involve the supply of 32 units of Toyota Vellfire for ministers and 3,000 Honda Accords for senior government officials.
This was later clarified by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who said that the final decision for the procurement of official cars would be the prerogative of the Cabinet.
Undoubtedly, this proposed purchase of foreign brands at the expense of local products brings back the age-old question of how serious the government is in supporting Malaysian products.
The Buy Malaysian Products campaign, a drive for consumers to support local brands, was launched last year by the government.
The campaign is not new, however, as it was originally introduced in the mid-1980s. Since then, preference for Malaysian-made products has been indicated in government procurement documents.
As highlighted by the prime minister, Malaysia should start to become a society of inventors and not just users. Our country is not short of world-class engineers, scientists and inventors in the technical fields such as automotive, aviation, software and medicine.
However, unlike China, the United States, Indonesia and other highly-populated countries, the level of our local domestic consumption is very low. Indeed, not all of the Silicon Valley case studies of success stories are applicable in Cyberjaya, and Malaysian brands require consistent government support in building their consumer base before going global. This has been the well-documented experience of Japan and Korea, too.
But rather than providing financial support to “grantpreneurs” that do not guarantee returns to the government, it would be better to procure actual products from deserving Malaysian brands that can be used by government departments.
The government should be really serious in promoting Malaysian brands otherwise we will go on being mere users and be left behind even by our Asean partners.
IR. SHAHRUL NIZAR SHAARI
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