The case of the "hostile" takeover of Subang airport
KL, 22 June: Malaysian workers threatening to go on strike is NOT something you read about everyday. But in the case of the ultimatum issued to the Government yesterday by Kesma, the airport workers' trade union, the writing has been on the wall. [Read Airport workers threaten to strike over proposed Subang airport takeover].
Already faced with the worst of times brought about by the pandemic, a proposal to take over the LTSAAS by a property tycoon with strong ties with the current government has made it unbearable for the airport workers.
In the context of making ton of money for the tycoon, his company and already well-off shareholders, the proposal is, of course, an excellent one. But the union reckons its members will end up losers. The workers say they speak for their employers, the MAHB, too. The MAHB, to its credit, has retrenched NOT a single employee since the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed in March last year. A private entity driven purely by profits may not be as compassionate.
The questions that need to be asked are simple:
1. Why does the Government seem keen - too keen, if you ask me - to let WCT take over the operations of LTSAAS? WCT is a property developer and tycoon Desmond Lim, who is synonymous with Pavilion KL, does not have a track record of operating airports (not that I know of).
2. Was MAHB running LTSAAS poorly? From what I know, Subang Airport has grown by four-fold between 2005 and 2019, generated some RM5.7 b in revenues, and created about 4,000 high-end jobs that pay between RM4k and RM25k a month. LTSAAS is today home for the who's who in aerospace and aviation sector, including Dassault, Collins Aerospace, SR Technics, Skyports, and DAviation. Half the companies operating in Subang are Bumiputera enterprises.
3. Do we need another mammoth commercial development? (Pavilion Subang, anyone?)
A Minister or two in this Government have been hinting that MAHB does not have the means to continue running LTSAAS. That's laughable. MAHB operates 39 airports in the country (and some overseas). In 2019 alone, it contributed more than RM460 million to our coffers and paid RM100 mil in taxes. Despite the pandemic, MAHB has raised more than RM3 billion in funds. In recent years, it spent RM4 billion to build the KLIA 2.
There are other aspects, including national security, tied up with MAHB's running of LTSAAS under the current agreement that is supposed to end only in 2069.
Kesma leaders told reporters the other day that they've heard talk that the Transport Minister and the Minister of Finance were going to 'bulldoze' the idea of a takeover of LTSAAS by WCT via a joint Cabinet paper. Some may call it paranoia on their part but think again: this Government is running out of time,. There are less than 40 days to the end of the Darurat, a period where transparency may take a back seat and projects may be rushed before the window of opportunity shuts.
If the union goes on strike, I will quietly support them even though I wish it doesn't have to come to that. If they organise a picket to oppose the takeover, I will walk with them for sure. National interest is at stake.