Rafidah Aziz: Let's not have false national prideInsights
The former Minister of International Trade and Industry Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz was on air at this morning's BFM radio's Breakfast Grill programme. It was a very interesting interview and despite being out of the Cabinet for seven years already, her mind is clearly still as sharp as ever.
As expected, the straight shooting former minister did not mince her words when she gave her opinions on various matters, including the state of our education system, the controversial TPPA, and of course, the subject of Proton was brought up as well.
Despite being part of the Cabinet who executed the National Car Policy, Rafidah was surprisingly pragmatic about Malaysia's approach in promoting a domestic automotive industry.
"We tried to protect Proton for a long time by not allowing imports of any car that is within the Proton range, and also the Perodua range. But now things have changed, I think even Proton and Perodua also wants to get out Malaysia and sell overseas, so in other words there will be quid pro co in opening up our market. So when you talk about local cars, it is no longer like in the old days where you get exclusive treatment. Now there is a choice. So cars should not be local or anything. It should be a car that is in the market and can compete," said Rafidah.
On the subject of Approved Permits (APs), Rafidah said most of the APs are for used cars, and that it should not be a permanent thing.
"It is a not permanent thing, it is something that started way before me, we just extended it and it is supposed to have ended/ending in the near future. And the most important thing is for those who are already in the car importing business to diversify. I have told them way way way back. Diversify into other areas that have got to do with the motor industry. You can't be importing second hand cars all your life, right?" said Rafidah.
When asked about her opinions on national cars and national pride, Rafidah cautioned against romanticising national pride.
"I like to be practical. Do not harp on this "our own local car our national car." Not too many people get nationalistic that way. But if you can say that this car is the same, on par technologically and everything with other cars in its range, then well present it as that. The fact that it is a local car is good.
"It's like a woman you know? Don't harp on "I am woman I am woman." If the woman is good, you don't have to say she is a woman right? You can see she is a woman. Look at the performance. It's the same with national cars," said Rafidah, who was one of the most powerful woman in the Malay sian political scene past and present.
She then went on express her opinions on having the right sort of pride for national icons.
"Look, national pride will have to justify that pride - very important. If our national is a failure, then no point 'la kan?' But I must say that Proton has now picked itself up from those days, and if they can compete in those areas that matters, the fact that it is a national car is just a bonus. It is a car in the market that people like. It's the same with anything at all - MAS. Let's not have false national pride."
Rafidah also noted that the younger generation of Malaysians don't share the same opinions on national pride as the previous generations, who may be more receptive of the need to protect national icons, products or companies at any cost.
"Eventually that will phase out (linking national pride with national icons). I think the new generations of people are not even nationalistic enough in that sense. You know what I mean? They are talking about "Are you competitive? Is your product good" That's what I mean by they don't care whether it's Malaysian or not, and I think that's fair because this is a global era, globalisation, they have a global perspective. Don't narrow their perspective. Nationalism just means being proud of your nation. Good enough. If the product produced in your nation is excellent, I see no reason why you should belittle it. Simple," she added.
You can listen to the full interview by downloading the podcast here.