Guan Eng: Loke decided on cabotage quickly but PN needs six ministries to do it

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The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government should not dilly dally further on the cabotage policy after two appeals by tech giants, said former finance minister Lim Guan Eng.

Lim said under the previous Pakatan Harapan government, then transport minister Anthony Loke could quickly decide on exempting foreign ships to engage in the repair of undersea Internet cables.

“Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin must not dilly dally with a meaningless two-week review period but choose immediately between clinging on to Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong’s failed cabotage policy or saving the digital future of Malaysia.

Bernama

“This follows the dilatory tactics of the cabinet yesterday instructing six ministries to investigate the effect of the country’s cabotage policy on the digital and shipping industries and present their recommendations within 14 days,” he said in a statement today.

Loke granted the exemption in March 2019 but Wee revoked it on Nov 13 last year, prompting an outcry from tech giants who are now reluctant to make further investments in Malaysia.

In November last year, three tech giants – Microsoft, Google, and Facebook – had jointly written to Muhyiddin to intervene in the matter, warning that the cabotage will delay the repair of undersea cables and increase Internet downtime.

They also claim that only one local shipping company has the capability for such repairs and the cabotage would lead to a monopoly.

Wee disputed this and was adamant on the cabotage policy, which he said can help develop the local shipping industry.

Following this, the tech giants made a second appeal this month to Muhyiddin and were also joined by Amazon.

“The revocation further impedes the achievement of other MyDigital blueprint objectives, including Malaysia’s ability to attract data centre investments, boost economic competitiveness through digitalisation, and develop internationally competitive digital talent.

“These goals are predicated upon increased Internet infrastructure investments, as well as faster and reliable Internet connectivity,” they said.

Lim said Wee’s move has impeded Malaysia’s digitisation goals and urged the government not to dither on a decision.

“Is the PN government now so indecisive and incompetent that they need to get six ministries involved in a straightforward matter?

“Under Harapan, this was decided efficaciously by the Transport Ministry without any fuss in line with international best practices,” the DAP secretary-general added.

Wee’s move had also come under criticism from Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) chairperson Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff, who is from Bersatu. Wee is also the MCA president.

“Rais had openly blamed Wee’s revocation of the cabotage exemption for causing Malaysia to be sidelined by Facebook and Google in favour of Singapore and Indonesia.

“Rais said that also under review are potential data centre investments worth RM12-15 billion in foreign investment.

“DAP supports Rais’ call to restore the cabotage exemption to save tens of billions of ringgit of critical investments in the digital technology sector and our country’s future,” Lim said. – Malaysiakini