Monday, October 04, 2021

Why Loke's "delisting" proposal is a bad idea

I FIND YB Anthony Loke's suggestion to delist Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad on the pretext that "all the nation's airports can be upgraded" shallow. I might add it stinks of vested interest but I'd be careful to go there, of course. As a former Transport Minister, Loke would surely be aware that there's not much of an issue with 'upgrading' airports in the country. MAHB has been doing quite a decent job in that department for years before Loke joined the Cabinet in 2018. And then the pandemic hit us and everything slowed down. Even then, plans to upgrade KLIA are ongoing, even during Loke's tenure as Minister. MAHB has also done a good job managing several airports outside Malaysia.

The issue, as I see it, is unrelated parties wanting to take over the building and running of airports in the country. Tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary took over the airport in JB (and what happened to wanting Senai to compete with Changi?), Tony Fernandes fought to have his own airport in Labu, Negri Sembilan and, most recently, the government of Kedah wanted its own airport even thought Penang's Bayan Lepas is more than capable to serving the traffic up north. And, of course, the attempt to "upgrade" the Subang airport by a property giant, something Loke must be very familiar with.

Not all airports in the country are profitable. The MAHB operates and maintains all of them by having to keep that delicate balance between the need to make money and serve the interest of the population, including those in the rural areas. Something no private entity, which is concerned only with its bottomline, would be too excited to undertake, I'm sure. And there's the question of national security, too.

If Loke wants to pursue delisting of GLCs, start with our utilities. Tenaga Nasional, for example, has become way too profit-oriented (especially after the IPPs came into the picture), making electricity ridiculously expensive, which erodes our competitiveness and affects quality of life. 

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