Frankly speaking: Will one be better than two?

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 16, 2019 - December 22, 2019.
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Last week, the government confirmed that the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) will be disbanded and merged with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM). The decision was made by the Cabinet on Dec 11.

The Ministry of Transport said the consolidation aims to optimise human and financial resources while improving governance and delivery of service.

As part of the merger, a sizeable portion of Mavcom’s workforce with specific expertise will be transferred to CAAM. The process will take at least six months. Meanwhile, Mavcom will continue operating, said Minister of Transport Anthony Loke Siew Fook.

The rationale is not unreasonable in that having a single entity, instead of two, to regulate the entire aviation industry would reduce potential redundancies and duplication where overlaps occur.  However, it is imperative that there is more clarity on how the government intends to ensure that the consolidated body will be an improvement over the individual bodies.

For one, CAAM’s shortcomings as an aviation regulator led to Malaysia’s air safety rating being downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Administration last month.

The government responded by forming a task force comprising local and foreign experts to address the issues at CAAM.

As for Mavcom, it has had mixed success since it was set up in 2016. While it has introduced initiatives that arguably improved passenger protection, it also equalised airport taxes at KLIA and klia2 despite differing levels of facilities and services — which many see as unfair.

Therefore, the merged body must address both its components’ shortcomings and be a better regulator than either body was.

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