PIA, PSM privatisation

YEARS of neglect by successive governments made Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) big white elephants draining huge resources. While the PSM is shut for any kind of production over the last three to four years and the national flag carrier also reached near collapse, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi while chairing a Cabinet meeting on Friday gave a go ahead for the privatisation of the loss-making entities.
According to official figures, PIA losses put a drain of Rs 150 million rupees on the national kitty every year while the losses of the PSM have reached about Rs 180 billion. Both the entities once operating effectively and profitably were considered to be pride of the country but regrettably these were driven to their present state of bankruptcy due to massive corruption, over employment, mediocrity that dominated their executive corridors and the government’s lukewarm attitude towards their revival. It won’t be wrong to state that these were deliberately brought to the position of insolvency in order to create a justification for their privatisation. Indeed present government alone is not responsible for the current state of the two organizations but it is also a fact that nothing concrete and worthwhile was done in this tenure also to restart the operations of steel mills and restore the past prestige of the PIA. Besides injecting money, difficult decisions such as downsizing or right sizing were required to help the two organizations stand on their feet. Now as the government has decided to privatise the organizations, it is also important that interests of the employees are also taken care of. Otherwise, it will face the same kind of situation that it faced in 2015 when the employees of the PIA came out in protest against the privatisation. At the same time, we will urge the government to refrain from privatising profit earning institutions such as the CAA which is contributing up to Rs60 billion to the national exchequer annually. Rather the CAA management should be asked to improve its operations and performance at the airports as per the international standards. Pakistan Railways under Mr. Saad Rafique is an example.

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