National aviation policy in the making

Published : 10:29 am  July 6, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 


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From Left: SLAAR Treasurer Keerthi Jayaweera, CAA Deputy Director Rayhan Wanniappa, SLAAR Chairman Eustace Silva, SLAAR Deputy Chairman Dushy Jayaweera, and CAA Chairman Shibly Aziz
Pic by Indraratne Balasuriya


By Chandeepa Wettasinghe
A national policy on aviation is being formulated with the help of the industry stakeholders, according to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Chairman Shibly Aziz who was speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Association of Airline Representatives recently.
“We should have done that many years ago, but we had enough and more problems in our hands, and nothing could have been done. But, I think we’re on a better footing and now. We are trying to put all our thoughts into seeing what is the best way forward for the aviation sector,” he said.

He noted that a committee comprised of CAA officials, independent aviation experts and the Chairmen and CEOs of both SriLankan Airlines and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority are brainstorming policy plans.
“(We are) trying to put out ideas for the government so that they can embark on a clear aviation policy for this country. Of course it is not left to us only to determine this policy. There’s no doubt in my mind that stakeholders like you have to be involved, and your views will be taken into regard,” he said.

While the previous regime had included aviation, along with maritime, commercial, knowledge, energy and tourism in the ‘5 Hubs+1’ concept under the Mahinda Chintana plan, no clear cut national policy was implemented in any of these areas, developing the sectors haphazardly, and drawing criticism from experts in the respective fields.

The construction of the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport was such an ad-hoc measure.
“Sri Lanka can only have one international airport, given the size of the country… Mattala was only supposed to be a second runway, but things got out of hand,” Aziz said.

Meanwhile, he noted that the fully liberalized ‘Open Skies’ policy mulled by the old regime, and which current Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake last month said that Sri Lanka will adopt, is not the answer.
“I feel that we can’t afford to have full open skies, because it is not possible,” Aziz noted.

He expressed that many laws have to be completely changed to accommodate such a policy, and that some American and Japanese Airlines which were given full liberalization in a case by case basis are not utilizing Sri Lanka, thereby calling to question the wisdom of open skies.

“On the other hand, we can do more liberalized access,” he said.
Aziz further added that the national carrier SriLankan is also heavily protesting against open skies, to protect its market share.
He noted that protectionism is undesirable, and that competition must be promoted in Sri Lanka, as the country sitting in the Indian Ocean rim, will be at the heart of the global aviation boom, and that the growth will not be affected in the future.

“World aviation growth will double in the next 15 years with passengers growing from 3.5 billion to 7.5 billion. 2/3 of the growth will be in Asia Pacific. The future is here. We should be happy to be in Sri Lanka. Don’t be disappointed about the country. We’re at the cusp of development. Sri Lanka has to be ready,” Aziz said.

He called on for the establishment of more flying schools, and for foreign airlines to set up hubbing operations in the underutilized Mattala Airport, for which maximum subsidies would be offered to both local and foreign companies.