Even more ‘dungu’ not to demand transparency, accountability over ‘risky’ boutique airline venture, Bandar Kuching MP tells minister

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING, April 20: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii says it will be even more “dungu” (foolish) of him not to demand for transparency and accountability when the Sarawak government intends to venture into the risky business of setting up a boutique airline, considering the possible impact on the economy and Sarawakians in the long-run.

Responding to the comments by Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, Dr Yii urged the minister not to avoid the main issues and to be accountable by revealing the overall cost for the airline project, economic feasibility and sustainability study, cost effectiveness analysis and long-term plans.

While he supports efforts that would benefit Sarawak, especially in finding ways to improve connectivity and stabilise airfares into Sarawak, Dr Yii reiterated his strong reservations about setting up a boutique airline is the best way to achieve that as it may not be sustainable and economically feasible and will come at a huge economic cost to Sarawak.

“I express my concern as this decision may cost a lot of public funds to set up, let alone find it tough to sustain the business model and maintain the asset as Sarawak may not have the economy of scale to keep it sustainable.

“Fact of the matter, the statement from the minister himself on top of other statements have confirmed that the initiative is only to ‘stabilise’ flight prices during peak seasons and even went further to admit that they do not expect this business to be profitable.

“This is concerning as such an industry is not merely some bus or even public transport company, but a whole airline in itself which will cost billions of public funds to set up, run, maintain and keep sustainable,” he stressed in a statement today.

Dr Yii said he does not want to see that after a period of time, the Sarawak government will have no choice but to use a huge sum of public funds to bail out the airline to keep it afloat.

No matter if the government has additional funds at present, he added, it cannot be an excuse to spend irresponsibly at the expense of the economic future of the region.

Since the beginning, Dr Yii pointed out, he has suggested what he sees is a better option at a much lower cost and risk, which is to work with existing national and private carriers to improve connectivity, especially domestic routes within Sarawak, by offering incentives and even subsidies especially during peak seasons.

“This will achieve what they want without the need to take on a whole airline company which requires high investment, high cost and high expertise which may not be beneficial, especially in the long-term,” he added. — DayakDaily