The Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) will be dissolved, and its roles merged into that of the country’s civil aviation authorities.

The Malaysian cabinet approved of the move on 11 December, according to media reports, setting in motion a series of legislative changes that will ultimately see MAVCOM subsumed into the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM).

The “consolidation exercise”, says transport minister Loke Siew Fook will boost efficiency, “and cut down red tape and bureaucracy”. He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a Ground Team Red — AirAsia’s ground handling joint venture — air cargo hub launch in Kuala Lumpur.

“Right now we have two regulators. Any airline, air cargo company, [or] ground handling company…if they want to get a licence to operate, they need to go to two regulators. We think this is another layer of bureaucracy, which we want to cut down,” says Loke.

Citing neighbouring Singapore as an example of “international best practice” his ministry was studying, Loke noted that all civil aviation functions were sited under the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore’s purview.

“As far as we are concerned, [Singapore is] doing very well as aviation hub…[and] we think this model is something that we want to go ahead [with]. This is the way forward for Malaysia’s aviation industry,” adds Loke.

A taskforce will be formed to look into various issues concerning the merger, including staff welfare and jobs. These, Loke adds, will take a few months.

Pressed for a timeline, he adds that it would take at least six months, or more, to amend or repeal relevant laws that will pave the way for the merger.

The minister’s comments come amid outcry from MAVCOM leadership that it was kept in the dark about the merger.

In a statement put out on 12 December, MAVCOM chief Nungsari Ahmad Radhi said he was “disappointed that such a decision was made with seeming disdain”. He added that both MAVCOM and the CAAM were “on the same side”, and shared similar concerns about the country’s aviation industry.

“[The Malaysian government’s decision] is a decision that there is no need for an independent economic regulator for the aviation industry that looks into commercial licensing, competition matters as well as consumer welfare and public service obligations; functions that did not exist before MAVCOM was set up,” he added.

MAVCOM was formally established in 2016 as an independent regulatory entity, primarily looking into consumer and economic issues of the industry.

Asked about Nungsari’s comments, Loke says he was “surprised”, adding that the statement to merge both entities was only made the same day MAVCOM raised its concerns.

News of MAVCOM and CAAM’s impending merge comes as the United States’ Federal Aviation Authority downgraded the latter to a Category 2 rating, following an April audit. The country had held a Category 1 rating since 2003.

The lowered rating meant that CAAM does not meet International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) safety standards, the FAA said. Malaysia’s carriers would also not be able to start new services into the US.