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KUCHING, Oct 17: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has been told to scrap the idea of setting up Sarawak’s own airline, as it may not be sustainable and economically feasible.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii suggested the state government should focus on improving connectivity instead, especially domestic routes within Sarawak by giving incentives to existing private airlines.
This included providing better business ecosystem to allow the private sector to present their proposal and business plans, he added.
“I express strong reservations toward the suggestion of Abang Johari to set up our Sarawak airlines or even in collaboration with Sabah, as it may not be sustainable or economically feasible.
“It may be more of an ‘image’ decision rather than a business decision,” he said in a statement.
“While I believe there is a need to improve connectivity into Sarawak and around Borneo to promote our tourism industry, there are better ways for the state government to do that rather than dip their fingers into the airline business,” he added.
Dr Yii reminded that running an airline can be tough, as well as highly regulated in terms of it organisational structure, passenger safety regulations and other aviation requirements.
He urged the state to reconsider the idea since it would cost a lot of public funds to set up, let alone sustaining the business and maintaining assets.
Abang Johari must understand that in principle, it should not be the business of the government to be in business, he said.
The state government or even the federal government generally do not have a very good track record of being involved in business due to different reasons, especially in a highly challenging industry such as aviation, he continued.
He said it would not be easy to run an airline company, and that a big chunk of these companies around the world have been struggling to stay afloat.
“I am all for connectivity but if really the routes suggested, especially to the rural areas are profitable, AirAsia or other airlines would have taken it up already. I would rather the state government instead use the money to give incentives to existing private airlines to fly those (domestic) routes.
“They should provide a better business ecosystem to allow the private sector to present their proposal and business plans, then give them incentives rather than trying to start our own airlines,” he suggested.
Dr Yii said the state government could provide more in assuring better maintenance and development to the state’s tourism products, on top of increasing more investments to build and develop the business and touristic potential in different areas around the state.
“There is no point in trying to increase connectivity by starting an airline if we do not have a good products to promote. We have huge tourism potential but more has to be done to attract tourists.
“I urge Abang Johari to reconsider his priorities. In principle, it is not the business of the government to be in business especially in complex industry such as this,” he said. — DayakDaily