Press Statement By Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng In Komtar, George Town On 15.6.2014.
Penang Has No Objections To A New International Airport Costing More Than RM 2 Billion Being Built In Kulim, Kedah, If The Penang International Airport Is Upgraded With 2 Runways, A Fully-Integrated Air Cargo Facility As Well As Establish A Maintenance, Repair And Overhaul(MRO) Hub.
Penang has no objection to a new international airport costing easily more than RM 2 billion being built in Kulim, Kedah, if the Penang International Airport can be upgraded with 2 runways, a fully-integrated air cargo facility as well as establish a maintenance, repair and overhaul(MRO) aerospace hub. The cost of the new international airport in Kulim is a conservative estimate and could be double the amount based on the final cost of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2(KLIA2) ballooning to RM 4 billion from the original estimate of RM 1.7 billion.
Kedah Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir claimed that building an international airport in Kulim, Kedah, was not a waste of money like Penang’s proposed tunnel project as it would be a gateway to the northern states and southern Thailand. He added that Penang had limited land space unlike Kedah, which had enough land for an airport.
It is untrue to say that Penang has no more land for the expansion of the existing Penang International Airport, which carried 5.5 million passengers last year and is reaching the maximum capacity of 6.5 million passengers. With the present overcrowding, a further expansion of the Penang International Airport is now urgently needed. Land can be reclaimed on the south of the Penang International airport and the necessary provision has been made for an additional 300-500 acres for reclamation where necessary.
Mukhriz’s attack on Penang’s under water sea tunnel project and 3 additional major highway projects in the island costing a total of RM6.3 billion as a waste of money, is a desperate attempt to divert attention from the impracticality of spending billions of ringgit on a new international airport in Kulim. How can building roads to improve connectivity for the convenience of the public be a waste of money? To follow his logic, then the Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah or the Penang 2nd Bridge costing RM4.5 billion should also not be built as it is a waste of money.
Building a new international airport in Kulim to be a gateway to northern states and south Thailand as an obvious device to replace, instead of focusing on upgrading the existing over-capacity Penang International Airport, would ultimately erode Malaysia’s economic competitiveness and comparative advantage. Penang has established itself as the top location of choice for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Malaysia with RM 19.7 billion or nearly 20% of Malaysia’s total FDI from 2010 to August 2013.
On this basis if Mukhriz feels it is economically feasible and justifiable for Kedah to have an additional international airport, then applying the same logic would mean that Penang should have two more international airports. Penang is the top location of choice of investors not only because of the well-connected logistics, communications and transport facilities but also due to “soft assets” of availability of human talent, sophisticated supply chain, livable city and good governance.
For this reason, the Federal government should strive to retain these foreign investors by upgrading the Penang International Airport by building 2 runways, an integrated air cargo facility and a MRO aerospace hub. As the most profitable air cargo hub in Malaysia, an integrated air cargo facility in Penang should be established to leverage on existing advantages.
The Penang state government will have no objections after the airport upgrade in Penang if the Federal and Kedah government still feels that an additional new international airport is required in Kulim.
Due to the high costs involved, building a new international airport from scratch is not a decision to be taken lightly or else the people are left with the heavy expense of building a while elephant. Malacca’s RM250 million airport is good example of such a white elephant where it is now an empty and unused airport.
LIM GUAN ENG
—-Mandarin Version —