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Malaysia Scraps New Airport

Sat Aug 18, 2001 7:06 pm

Thank god for this piece of news...

..."Scrapping of northern airport is positive move

By V.K. Chin
DEPUTY Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has put the final nail on the proposed northern international airport to be situated in Kedah. If development had gone ahead, it would most probably end up as a very costly venture and unable to contribute too much to the local economy.

There is actually little economic sense to put billions into such a project especially when there are already two international standard airports in Penang and Langkawi which incidentally is part of Kedah.

The proposed airport was part of a master plan to develop Kedah and to propel it into the 21st century. It was supposed to be built on reclaimed land which was becoming scarce for industrial and development purposes.

The Federal Government initially gave its tacit approval but conditions then were quite different from what they are today. Those were the heady days when the whole nation was on a development mode and there was keen competition even among the states not to be left behind.

The airport's impact on the northern region, including Perlis, Penang and even northern Perak, would have been tremendous. For Penang, it would have been a serious blow if the new airport had been built.

The concern was that the new airport would be a very serious competitor and could have a traumatic effect on its economic and tourism industries especially if it could get the support of the federal government as the new destination of international flights in the northern region.

It would have been difficult for the Penang Government to accept such a bitter pill especially since the state is also controlled by the Barisan Nasional.

So Penangites can now sigh with relief that the project would be scrapped and who better to announce it then Pak Lah who is himself a local son. Otherwise it could prove to be an embarrassment for the state Barisan.

The scrapped plan was conceived during the boom time when there was plenty of money for various development programmes. However soon after it was announced, it had to be shelved because recession had set in by then.

It would have been difficult for the airport to become viable even if it should receive federal backing. At that time, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport was still under construction and sceptics at that time were doubtful of its success as well.

It is never easy for any other regional airport in the country, whether old or new, to attract foreign airlines to use it as an international gateway. It would just be another expensive facility to cater to local travel.

The government is indeed lucky that work on the new airport had not begun as it would not have been cheap to abandon the project. At least now the Federal Government as well as the state can put this matter to rest once and for all.

The Penang airport is more than sufficient to look after the aviation needs of the residents and business community in the northern region. With better infrastructure, especially roads and the proposed second bridge linking Penang island to the mainland, it would be quite easy to travel to the island to catch a flight.

After so many years, Penang is still struggling to establish itself as an international airport as major airlines are naturally reluctant to use it as there are insufficient passengers to justify the route..."

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