KUALA LUMPUR – Gone are the days when every country had a national airline, says Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Malaysia, he said, could still have a national airline, but it did not have to be owned by the government.
“Now, you can have a number of airlines,” he said in an article that appeared in Going Places, the in-flight magazine of Malaysia 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.”
Dr Mahathir 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.
Dr Mahathir recalled that he had always flown with Malaysia Airlines in the past.
“The food was good, and, of course, being the prime minister, I get to fly in first class,” he said.
On tourism, the prime minister said there were too many bureaucratic procedures and these had to be reduced.
“We find that in some countries people are always smiling,” he said.
“They are very welcoming to tourists.
“But, sometimes, Malaysians don’t behave like that,” Dr Mahathir said.
He underscored that the information technology (IT) and new tech sectors could provide jobs with better incomes if Malaysians were willing to adapt and reskill themselves to serve in these areas.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that local companies now had the capability to produce microchips, which were previously, mostly, produced by foreign companies.
“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.
Dr Mahathir said the government wanted Malaysians to be conversant with new technologies so that they could serve in new industries.
He also noted that there had been very big investments in Malaysia, amounting to some RM30 billion a year.
“But, somehow, they don’t seem to get reported (in the media),” he said.