SINGAPORE, July 27 — The impressive traffic growth that has come with the liberalisation of the Singapore-Malaysia air sector demonstrates the potential for a similar outcome throughout Asean, said Singapore’s Transport Ministry (MOT).

Following eight years of consecutive decline, traffic on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route grew 12 per cent last year, compared to the year before.

In December 2008 — one month after low-cost carriers started flying between Singapore and Sabah/Sarawak — air traffic between Singapore and Kuching doubled, compared to the same month in 2007.

The Singapore-Kota Kinabalu route grew 153 per cent during the same time, said MOT’s spokesman, adding: “The benefits of Singapore-Malaysia air services liberalisation are resoundingly clear.”

The expansion of air links between the two countries is part of a wider initiative towards Asean-wide free skies.

Last year, transport ministers of the 10 member states agreed on a long-term road map that will see the creation of an Asean Single Aviation Market by 2015.

When that happens, all carriers of member states will be able to criss-cross the region’s skies without any restrictions.

Despite the agreement, sceptics say it will be tough to realise the goal.

For Singapore, the position is very clear. The MOT spokesman said: “Singapore has always adopted a pro-liberalisation aviation policy. This is because increased air links will increase the flow of tourists, investments and trade to the benefit of both Singapore and its partner’s economy.” — The Straits Times

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