Guan Eng asks if Ka Siong will reverse cabotage policy after Facebook, Google drops investment

Syed Jaymal Zahiid
·3-min read
Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng (pic) claimed Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong’s decision to reverse the cabotage exemption made by the then Pakatan Harapan administration forced the two tech giants to sideline the country. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng (pic) claimed Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong’s decision to reverse the cabotage exemption made by the then Pakatan Harapan administration forced the two tech giants to sideline the country. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — DAP leader Lim Guan Eng has labelled his rival and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong a “failed minister” as he blamed the MCA president for Facebook and Google’s move to pull out investments worth billions.

Lim, a former finance minister, claimed Wee’s decision to reverse the cabotage exemption made by the then Pakatan Harapan administration forced the two tech giants to sideline the country.

“Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong is a failed minister for stubbornly clinging on to failed policies, causing catastrophic losses of billions of ringgit of critical investments in the digital technology sector,” Lim said in a statement.

“Even the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation(MDEC) has called for the restoration of the cabotage exemption for foreign vessels undertaking submarine cable repairs.”

Former transport minister Anthony Loke had waived the cabotage charges that Lim argued would have allowed foreign vessels to perform undersea repair jobs at lower costs.

Wee revoked the exemption for submarine cable repair in November, 2020. The minister was also reported to have dismissed claims that the policy reversal would affect investments.

Shortly after, MDEC chairman Rais Hussin issued a statement criticising the move.

Rais said three new cables that were originally planned for landing in Malaysia are now under review.

The cabotage exemption reversal had also prompted the review of a planned investment to build data centres worth RM12-15 billion.

IBM recently announced its plan to shut down its RM1 billion information technology (IT) Global Delivery Centre in Cyberjaya by end of May. The move would cost the country 1,000 highly skilled jobs.

Late last month, Facebook and Google revealed it would lay two huge subsea cables that will link the US West Coast to Singapore and Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and home to a growing number of smartphone users, bypassing Malaysia.

Rais blamed Wee’s revocation of the cabotage exemption for causing Malaysia to be sidelined.

The MDEC chairman was also critical of Wee’s claims that Malaysia was bypassed in several undersea cable projects because it lacked the appropriate data centre infrastructure, Lim noted.

“The crucial problem for Malaysia is whether Wee is willing to repent by conceding his failure and reverse his failed policies to save the RM12-15 billion in potential data investments mentioned by Rais,” the DAP leader asked.

“Malaysia cannot afford to pay the price for Wee’s stubbornness and refusal to listen to reason.”

Critics of the Perikatan Nasional government said the botched digital investments were yet another sign of dipping investors’ confidence in Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration.

A UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) said in February that FDI into Malaysia plunged by more than two-thirds to just around RM10 billion last year, the worst drop in the region amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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