Mahathir says Malaysian airports can spur economic growth

Dr Mahathir Mohamad says KLIA, which turned 21 today, still has potential to grow.

SEPANG: Airports in the country have a vital role in facilitating the government’s economic aspiration, especially in its push to become a developed nation, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

The prime minister said based on a forecast by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger numbers would double in the next 20 years.

Traffic forecasts by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), he said, suggested that passenger traffic in the region was expected to grow by an average 5.3% annually up to 2045.

“These trends of growth are certainly to our advantage,” he said when officiating KLIA’s 21st anniversary celebration here today.

Also present were Transport Minister Loke Siew Fook, Malaysia Airports group CEO Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin, Malaysia Airports chairman Zainun Ali and Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari.

Mahathir said an airport should be more than just mere infrastructure.

“It is an economic catalyst, a tourism enabler and often the first impression of a country,” he said.

He said Putrajaya was committed to ensuring the growth of the aviation industry.

This, he said, was evident through the establishment of the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) to regulate the economic aspects of the industry as well as the National Aviation Consultative Council (NACC) to address local aviation development and direction to aid the country’s trade and economy.

Later, at a press conference, Mahathir commented on the growth of KLIA, which he called the “pride of the nation”.

“Time passes so quickly. When I launched (the airport) in 1998, I never expected to see the growth of this place. And the potential for growth is still very big,” he said.