KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali says that Kulim is sorely in need of an international airport – as well as RM1.6bil in private funds to build it.
The Economics Affairs Minister said the government needed the private sector's participation in constructing the proposed Kulim international airport due to the government's current financial situation.
"In the current economic situation, we need active participation from the private sector. The government has no money to build it, but it is needed," he said.
Azmin was speaking to reporters when met at the Parliament lobby on Thursday (March 21).
He also said that a feasibility study would be carried out on the proposed airport, in response to a remark by Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow who said that the study could convince sceptics of the need of such a project.
"This matter was deliberated at the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) on Monday (March 18), which was chaired by the Prime Minister (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad).
"All the Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers were there. In fact, Penang, Kedah, Perak and Perlis were also there," he said.
Azmin said a new airport was needed because the Penang International Airport had reached maximum capacity.
"There are constraints in expanding that (Penang) airport because there is no more space.
"So, to fulfil industry demands, particularly in south Kedah and the northern corridor, there is a need for a new airport to attract investors," said Azmin.
"We don't want to focus solely on the Klang Valley, Selangor or Johor. We want to bring in more investment to the north," he said, adding that the Kulim airport would complement similar facilities in Penang and Alor Setar.
The Kulim international airport is among seven mega projects costing over RM3bil that the Federal government has announced for Kedah to bring it on par with over more developed states.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said that there was another aspect to private financing initiative (PFI) for the airport.
"This is a good move because with the involvement and the confidence from the private sector, it reflects the increasing confidence towards the federal and state government," he told reporters at the parliament lobby.
Lim also agreed that the project should go through due process, including feasibility studies.
"We have to wait for it to be done through open tender," he said.
Asked if airline operators would be allowed to invest in the project, Lim said the question should be directed to the Transport Ministry.
"I only handle the financial part," he said.
The proposed Kulim international airport has drawn criticism, including from MCA that expressed bewilderment the government's decision to spend RM1. 6bil to set up the airport.
MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong described the decision as" a classic case of political consideration over economic principles".
The Penang government had also called for feasibility studies to be conducted to assess the necessity for the airport.
The project is expected to be completed in three years' time and projected to improve the airport's capacity from the current 6.5 million to 12 million passengers annually.