PETALING JAYA: A transport expert and a former deputy transport minister have called for Subang airport to be left alone, following reports that a company owned by businessman Desmond Lim was planning to take it over.
Goh Bok Yen, who has been a transport consultant for 30 years, said the airport was geographically and functionally well-positioned to serve the Klang Valley, adding that it has done well as a domestic and medium-haul regional hub.
“Obviously, it is unwise to isolate it from aviation or play down its potential role, especially at such a strategic location and with a vital role nationally,” he told FMT.
He said he did not support the general idea of converting major regional transport assets and hubs into privatised projects, adding that these should be considered national assets.
“And the planning, operations and development for these assets need to be considered on a national-level,” he said.
Goh called for focus to be given on increasing the airport’s contribution to the aviation industry and national development, instead of turning it into another mall or commercial centre.
He pointed out that business tycoons have been eyeing the airport, known as Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, even since the early 1980s.
It was reported that Lim, the largest shareholder of construction and property development company WCT Holdings Bhd, wanted to acquire and operate Subang airport until 2092 through his subsidiary Subang Skypark Sdn Bhd.
However, WCT on Friday said the reported plan to carve out the airport was a proposed renewed concession and not a plan to acquire the airport as reported. WCT said it would operate the airport under a lease with the government continuing to own the land and the airport.
It added that the proposal was only at a concept paper stage, which Subang Skypark submitted to the government on March 1.
Former deputy transport minister Aziz Kaprawi said that the proposal was not good for the country, pointing out that Putrajaya had already sold so many government assets.
With funds like the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) and Khazanah Nasional Berhad among shareholders of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), he said selling the airport to the tycoon would not be in the interests of the people.
“The Subang airport is close to KLIA. They must complement, not compete with each other. The company that proposed (the takeover) is more focused on profit, but airports are strategic assets for our country, not just for business purposes,” he told FMT.