Sabah economy takes flight

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s economy is gaining traction with the increasing number of tourist arrivals at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) here, says Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The Transport Minister said between January and August this year, tourist arrivals at KKIA stood at 5.3 million as compared to 4.7 million in the same period last year.

“This is an increase of more than 13%, a double-digit growth that is impressive by any measure,” he said after opening the state MCA annual general meeting yesterday.

Liow said his ministry was prepared to engage more airlines to use KKIA to fly more tourists into the state.

He said Sandakan airport was also being upgraded to complement KKIA.

“The runway is being extended from the current 2.1km to 2.6km at a cost of RM80mil.

“This will enable the airport to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft such as the Boeing 777 or Airbus 330,” he said.

Liow, who is also MCA president, said the Federal Government, through his ministry, was also doing all possible to make Sepanggar Port more efficient as part of its long-term measures to reduce costs of goods in the state.

MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, who was also present, said the Government was responsive to concerns of Sabahans such as scrapping the unpopular cabotage policy, paving the way for the port to be “busier than ever”.

“Sepanggar is now essentially an open port and this will help to drive Sabah’s economy,” Dr Wee added.

Recently, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the scrapping of the policy that limits the shipment of goods from the peninsula to Sabah and Sarawak to only Malaysian-flagged ships, effective June 1.

The 30-year-old policy has been blamed for the higher costs of goods in Sabah.

However, the policy will still be applicable to cargo shipping operations within Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

Dr Wee said the Opposition had spoken out against the policy when it was in place but then voiced its disagreement when it was being removed.

He said as such, Sabahans should be wary of their tactics which were mainly to stir up the people’s emotions.

“Their leaders claim to want to protect the rights of Sabahans but they have shown time and again that what they say and do are two different things,” he said.

Source : The Star