Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No need for Sarawak and Sabah to hold stake in MASwings

KUCHING: The state government has withdrawn plans to have equity interest in MASwings as Malaysia Airlines (MAS)’s final restructuring exercise has resulted in MASwings serving regional routes without any investment from Sarawak and Sabah.

Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said investing in MASwings, a wholly-owned unit of MAS, would no longer bring any additional benefit to the state considering that the restructuring had met the state’s initial objective of keeping routes in the region coming into East Malaysia.

Speaking to reporters after launching the MASwings Kuching-Balikpapan route here yesterday, he said the federal government had ensured that the interests of Sarawak and Sabah would take centre stage in its decision to expand MAS’ routes, especially within the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines – East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

“If there is a direct route from Kuching to another destination, they cannot withdraw flights as they wish. They must consult both Sabah and Sarawak,”

Abang Johari added that MASwings would be procuring new aircraft once the load factor became economical.

“That is a possibility in the long term, if the demand is there.”

On another matter, Abang Johari, who is also Minister of Housing, said the state was on its way to becoming a medical tourism destination, with four million people seeking treatment in private hospitals here last year.

He labelled this trend as “a good sign of things to come”.

“Cost wise, we are relatively cheaper compared to neighbouring countries like Singapore. We hope to make Kuching the destination for medical tourism.”

He suggested that private hospitals offer enticing packages where, for instance, their patients would come for treatment before retreating to a local resort for further therapy and recovery.

“We are very fortunate we have clean air. We are cleaning up the water. This environment is good for health care and we want to put the necessary infrastructure in place,” he said, adding that Kuching has a competitive edge over others from this perspective.