Media statement by MP for Bandar Kuching, Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen on 30 November 2021:
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari should just scrap the idea of setting up Sarawak’s own airline, as it may not be sustainable and economically feasible and will come at a huge economic cost to Sarawak.
Instead, the State Government should look at working with existing private national and private airlines to improve connectivity, especially domestic routes within Sarawak by offering incentives and even subsidies rather than 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.
This is in response to Abang Johari’s recent announcement that the State Governments still intends to establish their own boutique airline, if given the mandate in this State Election. This itself is dangerous, as Abang Jo seems to be more interested in an “image decision” rather than a “business decision” that may have an impact on the economic future of Sarawak.
While there is definitely a need to improve connectivity around Borneo and even to penetrate hubs that are important for tourism such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok and Hong Kong, but there a better and more feasible ways for the state government to do so rather than to dip their fingers int the airline business.
Running an airline business is very tough, as well as highly regulated in terms of organisational structure, passenger safety regulations, speciality, and other aviation requirements.
The State Government must reconsider this decision as it would cost a lot of public funds to set up, let alone sustaining the business model and maintaining the assets.
The fact of the matter is, Abang Johari must understand that in principle, it should not be the business of the government to be in business. Their role is to provide a conducive environment and ecosystem for businesses to thrive or find ways to incentivise the private sector to come up with a good and sustainable business plan for the people, rather than trying to start their own airlines.
The State Government or even the Federal Government generally do not have a very good track record of being involved in business due to multiple reasons, especially in a highly challenging industry such as aviation which itself has been deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
That is why I strongly urge Abang Johari to reconsider his priorities. Maybe he should instead find ways to incentive airlines companies to reduce their ticket prices so that Sarawakians can come back to vote this coming election.
Such huge announcements which have a big impact to the economic safety of Sarawak is worrying and proves that we cannot allow GPS to have a free reign in the State and must have a strong check and balance system in the State Legislative Assembly (DUN).
Furthermore, this is not the first time Abang Jo has mentioned this but actually have made the same promise as far back as 2019. That is why we need strong accountability and cannot give GPS a blank cheque during this election.
If not, we may continue to have such huge announcements which makes no economic sense and will jeopardise the future of Sarawak.