Current Affairs

Why is Wee Ka Siong punishing Penang?

Wee Ka Siong wanting to wait until after 2023 to make a decision on the expansion of the Penang International Airport is nothing more than vengeance politics. But does he realize who he is hurting?

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong’s shocking statement in parliament yesterday regarding the PIA expansion really needs to dissected.

According to him, they will be no decision made and no work done on the PIA expansion which was due for completion in 2023.

The big question is why? Why would he need to wait for another three years?

The even more shocking question is, why wouldn’t Wee Ka Siong jump at the opportunity to invest in Penang’s hospitality and tourism sector after the industry took a massive hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic?

Waiting until after 2023 before a decision on expansion is no different from cancelling the project outright. How long will it take for the people of Penang to see the benefits of this airport? Best case scenario, the project is given the go ahead in 2023, it will then take another 3 years for completion. What is the point then?

This act is clear manifestation of vengeance politics to punish Penang for not being aligned to the Perikatan Nasional(PN) Federal government.

Pakatan Harapan had announced the expansion project in the 2020 budget in Parliament last year, after PIA exceeded its original capacity of 6.5 million passengers annually with 8.325 million in passengers last year.

The PIA expansion project is expected to cost RM800 million for its initial expansion of capacity from 6.5 million to 12 million passengers.

PIA is one of the few profitable airports outside Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Airports Holdings Bhd(MAHB) had intended to fund the PIA expansion as a private financing initiative(PFI), since it will generate a positive rate of return.

By refusing to implement the expansion project is not only short-sighted but irresponsible, in sending a wrong signal to investors that the economic situation will not be normalised in 3 years time by 2023.

This glaringly contradicts claims by the Finance Ministry that the economy will recover quickly by early 2021.

For sound economic and financial reasons, PN should continue with the PIA expansion project to quell suspicion that PN is victimising and punishing the PH Penang state government for political reasons.

This article was written based on Lim Guan Eng’s press statement dated 19th August 2020

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