Sunday, January 15, 2006

VW Will, but Proton Won't because it lacks Will?

Malaysia-Today blog posted a Bernama article about Volkswagen (VW) dropping its cooperation agreement with Proton, and that VW only wanted to use Proton as a mass assembler of VW cars to penetrate the local market. The news would undoubtedly have been a great disappointment for the Malaysian car industry as VW had just a year ago signed a long term strategic partnership agreement with Proton.

According to the blog posting, quoting reporter Bernama reporter Yong Soo Heong, VW has also insisted on taking a controlling stake in the Malaysian national carmaker, and thus to exercise control over Proton, including the running of its finance, management, product development and manufacturing operations.

Some Malaysia-Today readers posted quite relevant comments while others used the opportunity for an open slather attack on their bête noire, UMNO’s Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) ideology, which they see as the root cause of Proton’s poor performance.

The unfortunate affair for Malaysians is that heightened ill feelings do exist among some segments within ethnic groups because there has been a perception of excessive discrimination. The recent case of the late M Moorthy’s burial has been one of several unhappy perceptions or experiences.

Many non-Malay Malaysians have been quite comfortable with the objectives of the New Economic Policy (NEP), except they see government implementations going far beyond the declared objectives. That and other issues like perceived religious discrimination have been sore points, so every single opportunity to vent their frustration by striking out gleefully at any Malaysian government failure (unfortunately and unfairly identified with the Malays) assumes a racist-flavoured attack.

On a personal basis, I had been a discriminated victim of the NEP but I am also aware that the discrimination was due to ultra zealous officials misinterpreting policies (deliberately or otherwise) and implementing those in an overly biased manner, rather than the person who had benefited from the discrimination.

OK, so scatological outcome occurred, but life continues. Anyway I thought the most worthwhile comment in Raja Petra Kamarudin’s blog on the Proton-VW topic was by reader Bigjoe99 who said:

“My own guess is that Volkswagen tried to design a plan that had a reasonable chance of success but that Proton and Khazanah unrealistic conditions made it either too difficult or not enough benefit to justify it.”

“This is a tough business. Any plan with Proton involved pain to quite a few people, one or/and two areas in management, financial and suppliers. Its given. In the end, I think there is not enough will to take the pain.”

my underlining

I concur with his analysis that the Proton Board might not have the will to make hard decisions, or if VW made made them, the equal will to swallow the bitter pill. This attitude had been exactly the case in MAS earlier sell-back to the government at above-market prices.

The analysis seems probable when we read VW group CEO saying that VW had a very specific idea (plan) on how it could cooperate with Proton. He lamented that the Malaysian government, Khazanah and Proton had different ideas. The cooperation agreement was kaput-ised perhaps because the Malaysian side had refused the bitter but business-realistic medicine.

Meanwhile another of Raja’s reader ProArte targeted the political angle by pointing out that:

“Malays must quickly realise that the NEP, with its divisive and counterproductive policies was really to enrich the UMNOputras beyond their wildest imagination. The relative backwardness of the Malays was used as justification for the unjust privileges and largesse which the UMNOputras siphoned off. It is in UMNO's interest to keep the Malays backward, poor and insecure. The Malays actually now believe that without the tongkat they will perish. Malays must realise they are just pawns in UMNO's policy of plunder."

my underlining

He made a more fair distinction between Malays in general and UMNO members. But beyond that political differentiation, would that be the case, of UMNO finding only backward and poor Malays useful to its political profits?

Most of us look beyond the acts of some UMNO members impressing their party or electoral constituencies, through regular employment of the high-utility keris or threatening speeches of 'stirring hornets nest' accompanied by free advertisement of 'May 13th' books, and realise that UMNO elections, especially its Youth Wing's, must be just around the corner.

The Chinese have always been convenient political ‘whipping boys’ for UMNO. What will some ambitious UMNO members do without the Chinese? ;-)

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