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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on December 17, 2018 - December 23, 2018

The government’s intention to develop the third national car project has been met with scepticism due to the troubles at Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn Bhd (Proton), even after billions of ringgit of public funds were spent to ensure its sustainability.

When the project was announced by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Cabinet members assured the public that the project would not involve public funds. It would be private-sector driven.

However, on Dec 6, Entrepreneurial Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Redzuan Yusof said a large sum has been set aside as a grant for research and development of a prototype of the first model of the project.

Why is the government backtracking on its assurance? Is the R&D grant not considered as an investment of public fund?

At the same time, no private-sector players have been named as partners. Yet, work on the project seems to have started, as Minister of Economic Affairs Datuk Seri Azmin Ali has stated that the prototype would be ready next year. Who is developing it?

Other questions come to mind. At the moment, the project seems to be spearheaded by the Ministry of Entrepreneurial Development, but it seems the Ministry of Economic Affairs is also looking at it.

What about the Ministry of International Trade and Industry since the Malaysian Automotive, Robotic and IoT Institute, which looks at the development of the automotive industry, among others, is one of its agencies.

The public cannot be blamed for their scepticism. The lack of clarity only adds to it.

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