Proposal to restore Penang free port status


MAKING IT A TOURIST HAVEN: It’s to complement Langkawi’s development

 GEORGE TOWN: A PROPOSAL has been mooted to restore the free port status of Penang to boost international tourism investments.

It is learnt that the proposal has been forwarded to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop and chairman of Tourism Malaysia Datuk Dr Victor Wee Eng Lye.

“Discussions are ongoing to make Penang a tourist haven and complement Langkawi’s free port status,” a source told the New Straits Times.

The source said the free port status for Penang is part of a move to improve the tourism appeal of both Penang and Langkawi and attract high-net investors to both islands.

“In enhancing Penang and Langkawi’s positions as world-class tourism destinations, it is hoped that the free port status will not only attract international hotels and holiday resorts but also increase the length of stay of local and foreign tourists, which will result in higher tourism receipts.”

Penang island, since the colonial days, was a free port until the status was revoked in 1969.

The NST has learnt that the idea to restore the status was mooted by the state’s newly appointed Barisan Nasional chief, Teng Chang Yeow.

When contacted, Teng did not deny that such a proposal had been forwarded to the federal authorities.

However, he declined to elaborate on the matter. Despite the setback of losing its free port  status, Penang, under the leadership of its then chief minister, the late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu,  managed to emerge as one of Asia's largest electronic manufacturing bases and became an economic powerhouse.

Penang also saw the setting up of the country's first free trade zone in Bayan Lepas, which welcomed some of the world's top names in technology, like Intel, Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), Hewlett-Packard (now Agilent Technologies), Clarion and Siemens (now Osram Opto Semiconductors).

However, investors in the hospitality sector have, in the past, indicated that the investment of an equal amount in tourism-related infrastructure in the duty-free island of Langkawi usually sees a quicker return on investment compared with a similar amount pumped into Penang.

Restoring the free port status would likely make Penang attractive again, said a source.

Free port status refers to all or most of foreign goods having duty-free access to a designated territory.

Pix by Chris Sidhu

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