KUCHING, Nov 21: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen is calling the state government not to waste money in setting up a state-owned telecommunication company just for the purpose of providing internet service to the rural areas.
He opined that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s proposal for the Sarawak government to own and operate a telecommunication company will be another white elephant project that would be wasting hundreds of millions of government funds.
“There are now four telco companies in Malaysia, competing for the business amongst 32 million Malaysian population, namely Maxis, Digi, Telekom and Celcom.
“For Sarawak government to join the fray will be most unproductive and inefficient of the public fund,” he pointed out in a statement today.
Chong, who is also Kota Sentosa assemblyman, also criticised that the justification provided by Abang Johari to set up the state government-owned telco company was unwise.
“The setting up of the telco company will take another two years to be in operation. During such time, the rural people will still be deprived of internet services.
“Secondly, the state-owned telco company will still be relying heavily on government subsidy to provide internet services for the rural area,” he said.
Due to the small population of Sarawak of merely 3.2 million compared to the whole population of Malaysia which was 32 million, he added that the state-owned telco will not enjoy the economy of scale of the other four players in the country.
“This will translate into higher costs to the state-owned telco company and will not serve the purpose of reducing internet costs for the people of Sarawak unless the government throws in more subsidy and grant,” he emphasised.
Therefore, the DAP Sarawak proposed that the most effective solution to resolve the lack of internet service to the rural area was to identify the specific areas in the rural area which the government was reminded to provide internet services to the people.
“Call for tender from the four telco companies for the setting up of internet services in these identified specific areas. The state government can then provide the grant and subsidy to the one which provides the most cost effective offer.
“By doing so, the rural area will be enjoying their internet services within weeks or months, and not wait for years for the state government to set up the company and further delay in waiting for the company to run its operation,” he suggested.
More importantly, Chong who is also Stampin MP, said that the costs of subsidising a selected existing telco company to provide internet service to the rural area will be a fraction of the costs of setting up a telco company and thereafter subsidising the telco company to provide internet service to the rural people.
“This is the same analogy to the scenario where, if you want to drink milk, just compare the prices of milk sold at different grocery shops and buy it off the shelf.
“It does not make economic sense to buy a calf, wait for the calf to grow and then milk the cow for milk. That will take a long time and much more costly.
“Therefore, I call on the state government not to throw good money into bad investments. Furthermore, in this internet age, the rural people cannot afford to wait for another few years without the internet services,” he stressed. — DayakDaily