KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — The days where there is a national airline for every country is over, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Malaysia, he said, could still have a national airline but it did not necessarily have to be owned by the government.
“Now you can have a number of airlines. One of those can be called a national airline because it carries the symbol (of the nation) but it can be operated by the private sector,” he said in an article which appeared in Going Places, the in-flight magazine of Malaysia Airlines.
He was responding to a question on whether there was still value in having a national carrier other than for patriotism or pride.
It was reported that the struggling Malaysia Airlines was looking at a number of options to stem losses in the competitive airline industry.
To a question, Dr Mahathir recalled that he had always flown with Malaysia Airlines in those days and had enjoyed the food served on board.
“The food was good, and of course, being the prime minister, I get to fly in First Class,” he said.
On the topic of tourism in Malaysia, the prime minister reckoned that there were too many bureaucratic procedures in the sector and these had to be reduced.
And in some cases, he said, Malaysians did not appear to be very hospitable.
“We find that in some countries people are always smiling, they are very welcoming to tourists, but sometimes, Malaysians don’t behave like that,” Dr Mahathir observed.
On another matter, he underscored that the industries that could provide better incomes were the information technology (IT) and new tech sectors for which Malaysians had to adapt and to reskill in order to serve in these new sectors.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that local companies now had the capability to produce microchips which were mostly produced by foreign companies before.
“We want to go into AI (artificial intelligence), but it will take some time to materialise,” the prime minister said.
He said there were many investment proposals but the government had to provide the necessary workforce too.
Dr Mahathir said the government wanted Malaysians to be conversant with new technologies so that they could serve in these new industries.
He also noted that there had been very big investments in Malaysia, amounting to some RM30 billion (US$7.3 billion) a year.
“But somehow, they don’t seem to get reported (in the media),” he said.