Guan Eng: Why is Penang so worried about competition from other airports?

Opalyn Mok
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng attends the Penang State Assembly in George Town November 5, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainuddin

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 5 – The state should be confident in its Penang International Airport (PIA) instead of worrying about competition from the proposed Kulim International Airport (KXP), a backbencher told the legislative assembly today.

Lim Guan Eng (DAP-Air Putih) said there was already competition for PIA from Langkawi in terms of tourism.

“So maybe it will face competition for cargo from the Kulim International Airport,” he said.

He said KXP is a privately funded project and investors had studied the feasibility of the project before investing.

“Why is Penang so worried about competition from other airports? We must be confident that our airport can compete with others,” he said in reply to a question by Lee Khai Loon (PKR-Machang Bubuk) on the implications of KXP for PIA.

Lim, who is the finance minister, said KXP is beneficial to Kulim and Kedah, and still in the planning stage.

“As for PIA, we must make sure the expansion project continues, we should not jeopardise the expansion project as we needed it,” he said.

He said PIA has recorded almost eight million passengers, far above its capacity of 6.5 million, turning it into a “pasar malam”.

“This is why the expansion project is very much needed,” he said.

He reminded the state government not to jeopardise the expansion plans for PIA with proposals of a new airport for the state.

“Don’t say we will build a new international airport; otherwise, the federal government will question the need to expand PIA if there were plans to build a new airport,” he said when debating the Supply Bill today.

Lim said any private company could submit private financing initiative (PFI) proposals to build airports anywhere, even in Machang Bubuk, but the firms must look at feasibility as well as technical and financial viability.

“It is more important to note that airports are an important public infrastructure that the government must provide for the people,” he said.

“For now, we must make sure that the expansion of PIA will continue,” he said.

He said there may be many PFI proposals by various parties but this should not throw a wrench in the expansion plans for PIA.

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