PIA privatisation

ONCE again, there is a plan to privatise PIA and Minister for Privatisation Daniyal Aziz, on Monday, announced measures to make the national flag carrier attractive for buyers. The move is aimed at parking over Rs 150/- billion in legacy loans and non-core assets of PIA in a company and selling the core business to private parties.
There are several question marks about motives, plan and timeframe for privatisation of PIA. The present government has just five months in office and it seems to be next to impossible to undertake such a significant and sensitive undertaking in a short period. There are also legal hurdles in the way as under sub- section 4 of the section 4 of PIA Conversion Act of 2016, which was unanimously passed by Parliament, restricts the federal government from transferring management control of the airline business of PIACL and retaining at least 51% shares in the entity. This is particularly so as PPP has already dubbed the move as anti-employees and announced to resist it forcefully. Other parties are also likely to oppose the move as no one would like to be seen favouring an anti-employee measure during election year. Similarly, the huge losses being incurred by PIA at the moment would hardly make the transaction beneficial for the country as the Privatisation Commission might not be able to sell this national assets at its real worth. We believe that the cases of Pakistan Steel and PIA are similar as it is beyond comprehension that the two should suffer huge losses despite prospects for earning handsomely because of market conditions and demands. There are legitimate complaints that the successive governments did not take due interest in reforming Pakistan Steel and PIA. A competent management with free hand to run these organisations purely on commercial considerations would have made all the difference and there would have been no need to sell them at throw away prices as is being contemplated. There is still time to review the decision to get rid of these institutions and instead plans should be made to transform them into profit earning bodies.

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