Friday, March 20, 2009

MCA faulted by Sabahans for cabotage policy woes

Malaysiakini has an interesting piece by Joe Fernandez entitled MCA faulted for cabotage policy woes where traders in Sabah are placing the blame for the cabotage policy on the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) presumably because the MCA has held the Transport Ministry portfolio for as long as one can remember.

Under the existing cabotage policy foreign shippers are not allowed to visit ports in Sabah and Sarawak directly with their goods. They have to offload at Port Klang, the designated national load centre. About 3,400 Malaysian-owned ships are engaged in the domestic trade many of which ply the Semenanjung to Sabah and Sarawak route.

An importer is quoted as having pointed out that it costs RM2,436 to ship a 20-foot container (TEU) from Port Klang to Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan (RM3,236), Tawau (RM3,336), Lahad Datu via Sandakan (RM4,186) and Lahad Datu via Tawau (RM4,386).

Having said all that it should be noted that the Malaysian shippers are the ones holding the Transport Ministry to the cabotage policy. That the Ministry is helmed by the MCA politicos is an inconvenient truth.

I realise and fully understand that this issue may be arcane and, yet, emotive, depending on where each of us stand.

But, whatever the case, the following policy questions need to be addressed:

First, why should there be a cabotage policy that favours Port Klang and, by logical extension, the local shippers at the expense of the Sabahans and Sarawakians?

Second, should there be a time-limit to the policy since home-grown enterprises seem never to be able to cut the umbilical cord or government (read, taxpayers) support?

Third, if the trade-off is between the cost of abandoning the cabotage policy and measures taken to reduce the cost of goods in Sabah and Sarawak, what can the federal government do to reduce the cost of goods in Sabah and Sarawak - or, at least, the cost of freight component?

Fourth and, possibly, the most challenging question is, is it possible to institute a ONE-PRICE POLICY to unify Semenanjung with Sabah and Sarawak?

No comments: