Mon, Aug 21, 2006 - Page 12 News List

CAA to allow private firms to operate nation's airports

CNA , TAIPEI

The Civil Aeronautics Adminis-tration (CAA) is planning to allow private companies to operate commercial airports in an effort to help the government balance its books.

The CAA will soon invite companies from the private sector to offer suggestions on privatizing airports, officials from the administration said.

Under current regulations, only government agencies or local governments are allowed to operate airports.

According to the Ministry of Audit, 15 of the nation's 18 airports have been losing money in recent years. Among them, only Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, Hsiao-kang Airport in Kaohsiung and Taipei's Sungshan Airport have been making money.

The combined deficit of the 15 other airports, most of which are located in offshore areas, exceeded NT$900 million (US$27.5 million) last year, ministry officials said.

CAA officials attributed declining business in the domestic air-service market mainly to the opening of the second north-south freeway.

The opening of the high-speed railway along the nation's western coast in October is expected to further dent the money-losing domestic air service business if remedial measures are not adopted shortly, they added.

Late last year, the legislature asked the CAA to conduct a study and come up with a remedial plan within 10 months.

Against this backdrop, the CAA began considering allowing private companies to run airport operations without compromising the government's jurisdiction over navigation and control towers, as well as airport security and quarantine affairs, the officials said.

Allowing private companies, including foreign firms, to run certain aspects of the airports will help diversify the airports' operations, they said.

It is hoped that suggestions and opinions from the private sector on privatizing airports can be referred to the Ministry of Transportation and Communications by the end of this month for approval, facilitating the CAA's efforts to revise the law and submit them to the legislature next month for approval, the CAA officials said.

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