PUTRAJAYA - The cabotage policy exemption shows that the Government listens to the people's wishes, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
"In the past two years, whenever I attended dialogues or meetings with small-and-medium enterprises (SME) as well as other associations in Sabah, the question of the cabotage policy kept cropping up.
"I highlighted this to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, who brought the matter to the Prime Minister," said Dr Wee, who is also Sabah MCA Chairman.
After deliberating the matter with various stakeholders, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced on Sunday that the 30-year-old policy will be exempted for cargo shipping operations within Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.
"We have been liberalising the sector over the past few years by gradually removing the policy's restriction. The exemption announced by the Prime Minister is a major step in the liberalisation process.
"So far, it has been very well received by the people in Sabah," he told reporters after attending a dialogue session with SME Malaysian Champions Club members at Menara Usahawan on Monday.
The cabotage policy requires all domestic transport of goods to be conducted by Malaysian vessels, and as such goods bound for Sabah and Sarawak will have to come in via Port Klang.
Businesses claim that this increases transport costs and had urged the Government to allow ships to come in directly.
However, a study by the Economic Planning Unit and the World Bank on the National Port Strategy in 2012 showed that the cabotage policy is not the cause behind rising cost of consumer goods in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.