Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong has fumbled in his job and his handling of the Cabotage policy is just one of a series of missteps he has made despite being tasked with a strategic portfolio.
Tech titans like Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Microsoft and Google have cautioned Wee that prolonged time to repair submarine cables could hurt Malaysia’s effort to draw investments. These companies have sent urgent requests twice for the Prime Minister to overrule the Ministry’s policy decision.
Ironically, as PM Muhyiddin Yassin has embarked on an aggressive plan to roll out the MyDigital initiative, including expediting the availability of 5G nationwide, Wee is still stuck with his protectionism mindset that is the antithesis to globalisation and information-based economy.
Malaysia has only one marine company undertaking submarine cable repairs, with application by foreign vessels for exemption under Cabotage policy taking too long in an age where crucial information and data zip across the world in real time.
Wee’s insistence on retaining a policy from the 1980s has only made Malaysia less attractive for foreign investors. As it is, Tesla, Amazon and Google have already picked Indonesia over Malaysia for investments. Why is Wee making it worse?
Wee’s handling of the Cabotage policy is only one of his many missteps in a ministry that is critical in a globalised economy.
Who can forget that early this year, Port Klang, the country’s main port was crippled due to embarrassing congestion? It is perplexing how this can happen. Goods are stuck in ports. There have also been reports of damaged perishables due to the longer-than-expected wait.
Not only perishables like onions are affected. Goods that should have reached retailers or consumers are also stuck, stifling the economy at a time when it is badly hit by Covid-19. Just like a blocked artery can lead to strokes or a heart attack, the congestion in Port Klang can endanger our economic well-being.
And then, there’s the issue of the iconic Penang ferry services, which has been phased out starting Jan 1.
There’s a lot of sentiments attached with the services that had been the main mode of transport linking the island and the mainland prior to the completion of the two Penang bridges.
Wee’s gusto in picking a fight with DAP Penang leaders did not go down well with Penangites, who feel he could not relate to why people in the state are deeply sentimental about the ferry services.
Wee also has not been able to answer if the services are really going to be shelved. Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz had said that the government had allocated a RM30 million grant for the ferry services to continue. The uncertainty does not bode well for Wee.
Other issues Wee has handled poorly include the lack of a roadmap for the aviation industry and the welfare of workers hit by the pandemic. Wee’s handling of the Klang Valley Double Tracking Phase 2 (KVDT2) project also leaves much to be desired.
Clearly, Wee is out of his depth for this job. If he’s not cut out for it, then it’s best that he be replaced with someone who is far more committed and qualified.
The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader Dominic Eng from Penang.