Najib slams car tariffs

Malaysia’s new Pakatan Harapan government plans to impose tariffs on foreign vehicles has drawn a sarcastic response from former prime minister Najib Razak.

Najib urged the government to reconsider its plans, saying they would be an extra burden for Malaysians and contravene free-trade agreements.

“Prices of goods will increase and Malaysians will have to spend more. At the same time, the country’s exports in various industries will be less competitive,” he posted on Facebook.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the government was reviewing the national automotive policy, saying that other countries imposed conditions in their own markets.

Mahathir’s new government has caused confusion with other policy announcements, like the replacement of the unpopular goods and services tax (GST) with a sales tax starting on September 1.

The 6-per-cent GST in April 2015 was accused of pushing up living costs but Mahathir’s decision to scrap it has caused confusion with retailers and consumers.

The 5- to 10-per-cent sales tax, depending on the product, covers fewer goods and services but is yet to be finalised with a month left. Customs exemptions, like aircraft, cruises and other luxury items, should be taxable, consumer groups argued.

Najib, who is subject to an ongoing fraud investigation, said: “It is an irony when Malaysians voted for cheaper petrol prices and abolished tolls, and they did not get it. Instead, they were ‘rewarded’ with higher car prices.”

Najib said as prime minister high car prices and the protectionism for Proton, which Mahathir was instrumental in setting up during his first term as prime minister, were among voters’ main complaints.

In reality, he probably heard more complaints about the billions of dollars his administration was accused of syphoning into personal bank accounts.

“During my time as the PM, never once I had a policy to increase car prices. I know high car prices is a burden for Malaysians, especially for those in the lower- and middle-income group.

“Those who are rich were only able to buy cars with cash, while those in the lower and middle income had to obtain loans,” Najib added.

The move would also send the cost of insurance and other bills spiralling, the embattled former premier said.

“It is unfair to the people because Malaysians have the right to purchase cheaper cars equipped with various modern features. Pakatan had once pledged to lower car prices. However, it appears that upon obtaining power, they have forgotten about their promises,” he added.

Pakatan Harapan voters opted for lower prices in May. Picture credit: Wikimedia