The revelation two weeks ago by an automotive news website that the Pakatan Harapan government had issued 36 new open approved permits (APs) to bumiputera entrepreneurs to import reconditioned cars has set tongues wagging.
This is because in the past, the then opposition parties, especially DAP and PKR, had criticised the abuse of the AP system, highlighting the failure of accountability, transparency, integrity and good governance.
Indeed, the AP system distorts the market and perpetuates a rent-seeking mentality.
But after PH took over the government, it said last November that it would not abolish the AP system, but review it instead.
Now, it has issued 36 APs to new applicants. Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Dr Ong Kian Ming revealed there are now 164 AP holders, including the 36.
He also said businesses selected for the APs are subject to tighter regulations and that the government still limits the number of APs each company receives, although there is no longer a quota on the number dished out annually.
However, the website reported that new and established AP holders are trading the APs among themselves for RM18,000 to RM22,000 each.
If the government is serious about helping bumiputera entrepreneurs, the AP system must be strictly monitored, and those caught selling the APs should have their licences revoked. The names of the 164 companies should also be revealed. (The list on the ministry’s website was not accessible at the time of writing.)
The government also needs to explain how it all fits into the new National Automotive Policy, set to be unveiled soon.