PKR rep: Rush to build airports by northern states cause for concern

Several northern states have indicated their interest in building new airports. (Bernama pic)

GEORGE TOWN: A PKR rep today called on the federal government to be a mediator among the northern states all eager to build their own new airports and avoid waste.

Goh Choon Aik (PKR-Bukit Tambun) said while Penang had proposed to build a Northern Corridor International Airport in the 2019 state budget, other states such as Kedah and Perak were also interested in building their own airports.

He said in such a situation, the plans should be brought to the Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers Conference and the National Physical Planning Council to be deliberated.

“There appears to be a mad rush or race by all three states to build airports.

“Malaysia is a small country and the peninsula has limited land. Therefore, we need a comprehensive master plan for any airport.

“Ideally, the master plan for any regional airport should be devised after consultation with federal bodies and town planners.”

He said the ideal location should be also decided by the experts at the federal level.

“We have the North-South Expressway and KTMB’s electric train service to almost all major towns. So, in terms of cost benefits for an airport, the high maintenance cost cannot be covered by the generated income.

“We must bring this matter of building airports to the federal government to decide where the next new airport should be built so as not to waste money or fill our airspace unnecessarily,” Goh said in his debate on the 2019 Supply Bill at the state assembly today.

Last Friday, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow (DAP-Padang Kota) said a study on the feasibility of a new northern region airport would be carried out to cater to demands beyond 2050.

The new airport has been proposed to be built on reclaimed land off Batu Maung, a town at the southeastern tip of Penang island. It is directly 3.5km eastward from the existing Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas.

Chow said while the existing airport would be upgraded, it would only cater to demand for another 20 to 30 years. Hence, a newer airport was needed to meet the needs of the island.

It was reported that neighbouring Kedah was also keen on building its first international airport in Kulim, with 600ha of land already designated for it.

Presently, Kedah has a domestic airport at Kepala Batas, 15km south of Alor Setar, with reports indicating it would be made an international airport in five years.

Perak, meanwhile, is also eager to build an international airport at Seri Iskandar, 50km southwest of Ipoh. The state plans to turn the older airport into a private jet-only airport.

Cut subsidiaries to save money

Meanwhile, Goh said the Penang Development Corporation (PDC), the state’s main development agency, should cut down on the number of subsidiary companies to save money.

He said PDC ought to focus on improving industrial zones and providing affordable housing — the key goal PDC was created for in the first place.

He said while the chief minister was expecting lower revenues, as seen in the state budget announcement, the state can expect to save more by cutting down on subsidiaries.

Goh said according to his research, there were over 10 subsidiaries under PDC.

“PDC should be focused on improving the industrial zones in Batu Kawan and Penang Science Park.

“And they should build more gated industrial zones in anticipation of high-value Industry 4.0-type of companies coming to set up shop in Penang. They would value better security,” he said.

Goh said state tourism-related companies, too, ought to be restructured to save more money.

Bukit Tambun assemblyman Goh Choon Aik suggests several ways for Penang to save costs, including cutting down on the number of state subsidiaries.

He said the state could save more money by halting the print edition of Buletin Mutiara, the state’s official newspaper and going fully online.

He said while the newspaper has been useful in disseminating the state’s policies since 2008, it was not feasible to print newspapers as newsprint cost is high.

“I would like to propose the use of social media, portals or other means to send news to the people. I appreciate what the Buletin has done for us for the past 10 years, but we need to move on,” he said.

Too little spent on road maintenance

Goh said the state’s RM39.3 million allocation to maintain and build new roads was too little.

He gave an example of Jalan Bukit Tambun, a federal road in his constituency which was full of potholes.

As for the village roads, RM2 million was not enough to upgrade existing roads, let alone maintain them, he said.

“With over 500 lorries carrying construction waste going back and forth from the island to the mainland, more roads can be expected to be in bad shape.

“I urge the state government to put more money into upgrading roads.”