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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is there really a need for ‘Buy Malaysian’ campaigns?

THE ‘Buy Malaysian’ campaign is here again. Well, it’s nothing new and sometimes, I honestly wonder whether there is any necessity at all for such a campaign. I’m sorry to say this but I feel that it’s a waste of time, effort and money.

The government organises the campaign every now and then. Although the objectives are noble, I wonder how much of public funds are utilised for the purpose, particularly for advertising and publicity. After every campaign, we are also not aware whether it has been a success or failure but the official verdict is always a success. I’m not sure I want to believe that.

Take me as the typical Malaysian consumer. As long as Malaysian products are of quality and prices are competitive, what reasons have I not to buy our own products. I don’t need a ‘Buy Malaysian’ campaign to tell me that I should buy Malaysian and support our own people and country.

You know what. Sometimes I just feel that the ministry concerned has an obligation to spend the funds for the ‘Buy Malaysian’ campaign just for the sake of letting those involved in the event make some money. It’s possible that these beneficiaries are people who have been scratching the backs of those in authority and such a project is a kind of an annual or once-in-two-year inducement. I believe many of us know what’s going on when public funds are wasted on such projects.

Don’t blame me for thinking that way. Haven’t we heard enough of such kinds of what I would describe as ‘thank you’ projects to repay benefactors and sponsors for their ‘contributions’ (in whatever form) to the ministry?

When Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad was appointed to helm the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, I have high hopes that this ministry will be able to perform better in the areas of public transparency and accountability. After all, Shahrir is not your typical ‘Yes Man’ politician and public expectations of him are high.

However, to be fair to him, he is only 10 months in the ministry — so let’s give him ample time to perform. But my wish is for the minister to ‘clean up’ his ministry of bureaucratic officers and staff who are so used to the old ‘you scratch my back I scratch your back’ way of dealing with the private sector.

I spoke to several colleagues and friends this past week to get their feedback and opinions on the latest ‘Buy Malaysian’ campaign which was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last Friday (Jan 16).

Two agreed with my views on the matter, saying that they do not even bother to look at the advertisements published in the newspapers on the campaign. One did not even know that such a campaign was on. I suppose all the three have no interests in the event, let alone bother to read what it’s all about.

A fourth friend, however, feels that the campaign is necessary to serve as a reminder to the public now and again to support their own kind. He says many Malaysians have to be told what to do most of the time and hopefully, these people will catch up with the campaign.

On one hand, I’m not sure I agree with my friend’s statement. However, I think he has a point too — that is the ‘haves’ are the ones who probably need the reminder more than the ‘haves not’. After all, what choice does the lower segment of society have except to buy cheaper, homemade products.

Let me relate this interesting, ironical story. The day Pak Lah launched the ‘Buy Malaysian’ campaign, the Selangor state government took delivery of 15 Toyota Camry 2.4 cars bought for use as official cars for its state executive councillors and top state government officials.

The Camry cars were bought to replace the Perdana V6 which were said to have incurred very high maintenance cost. The stone-black Camry cars cost RM150,000 each. It was reported that some of the Perdanas cost the state government some RM60,000 to RM110,000 in repair and maintenance.

So what is happening! Just as the government launches the ‘Buy Malaysian’ campaign, some people who are supposed to lead by example got rid of their Malaysian cars and buy Japanese.

Well, my friend’s remarks about organising the campaign to serve as a reminder to some Malaysians are valid, certainly in this case.

Again, why are the repair and maintenance costs so high when many owners of the Perdana do not think so. Well, your guess is as good as mine. Workshops appointed by the state government naturally go for the kill. So far, one is under investigation for overcharging the state government exorbitantly.

Personally, I think the Perdana is a good car. Its design is the best among all the Proton models to me. And while talking of Malaysian cars, isn’t it also a shame that Proton Savvy is the best selling car of its range in Thailand and yet, some Malaysians prefer to buy Japanese.

So what good is the ‘Buy Malaysian’ campaign. True, there are benefits, as in keeping the national economy in tune, more resources would also be available for industry to plough into research and development, thus impro-ving the quality of products.

A national daily argues that “the logic of buying local is clear and compelling: Keep the money circulating within the nation to help massage the local economy. It makes good sense in the best of times, and even better sense now with the global economic downturn.”

That’s well and good. But do we really need to spend millions on a campaign to make Malaysians understand that?

Let me repeat — shouldn’t buying local come naturally as long as the products are of quality and with competitive prices.

Same applies for services offered. If Malaysian banks are able to provide quality financial products coupled with efficient and courteous services, why should I go to a foreign bank.

The list goes on.


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