KUCHING: Sarawak will upgrade MASwings from a rural to regional air service provider once its takeover of the airline is complete, says Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.
The Premier said the state government, Hornbill Skyways Sdn Bhd and Malaysia Aviation Group signed a memorandum of understanding last month for the management of rural air services by acquisition of shares in MASwings.
"I am confident that this initiative will improve our air connectivity and open more opportunities in trade, business and tourism.
"The improvement will allow us to better promote Sarawak as a premium destination for responsible tourism and business events, given Sarawak’s natural settings and eco-friendly environment," he said when winding up the debate on the 2024 state budget at the Sarawak Legislative Assembly on Wednesday (Nov 29).
Abang Johari said Sarawak planned to expand air connectivity to nearby regional destinations, especially Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Singapore, Indonesia and other South-East Asian countries.
At the same time, he said the acquisition of MASwings was equivalent to investment in infrastructure development.
"Therefore it is not profit-motivated, rather it is essential to complete our transportation and logistics network in air connectivity within Sarawak and the region at a reasonable price.
"This Sarawak-owned airline will be able to provide more guaranteed essential air services, even on less profitable routes," he said.
He added that Sarawak was preparing to become an aviation hub and tap the potential for maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities in the region.
This will enable the state to be more efficient in providing air services, he said.
Abang Johari also said the state government remained committed to resolving Sarawak's claims under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
Among others, he said the state's proposal to increase the number of parliamentary seats for Sarawak and Sabah to 35% had received a positive response from the Federal Government.
"I am optimistic that after a number of joint committee discussions, this proposal will be endorsed by the MA63 technical committee and further taken to the Federal Cabinet," he said.
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Abang Johari added that the state government would continue to negotiate for a new formula for the special grants under Article 112D of the Federal Constitution to ensure that Sarawak's revenue was adequate to meet the cost of state services.
The Federal Government increased the special grant to Sarawak to RM300mil in Budget 2024, up from RM16mil previously, pending the finalisation of a formula for the amount.
"On behalf of the Sarawak government, I would like to thank Putrajaya for their commitment and sincerity in restoring the rights of Sarawak as stipulated under MA63," Abang Johari said.