‘Privatisation’ of PIA: government yields to protest, postpones plan

WEB DESK: The government has decided to postpone ‘privatisation’ of the national flag carrier, PIA, for a period of six months to minutely calculate the performance of the Pakistan International Airlines Corporation (PIAC). Addressing a press conference here on Friday, Senator Mushahid Ullah of PML-N said that the government wants to revive the PIAC and it has been decided to shelve the plan of seeking a strategic partner and give time to the PIAC so that it can improve its performance.

Addressing the concerns of Labour Unions, he said current strikes are not only causing difficulties to passengers but PIAC itself is incurring huge losses due to protests. He said the PIA employees’ perks and privileges that they are availing presently, other than salaries, including gratuity funds, freight benefits, pension, provident fund will remain the same even if the PIAC gets a strategic partner under the new bill which has been passed by the Assembly.

He assured that the job security along with other service benefits to the employees would be ensured and said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wants the revival of PIA and not the privatization, adding that no single employee will be laid off. Explaining the ordinance’s conversion into a bill, he said it is just the conversion of corporation into a private limited company in which an independent Board of Directors (BoD) would have authority to take instant decisions without waiting for the approval by the government, adding this would definitely save time and timely decisions could be made.

He said the privatisation takes place when above 51 percent of shares are given to some company, adding it is not privatisation, but since the PIA is performing well, the government is giving some margin to PIA to grow and perform in a better way.

He said these strikes are of illegal nature and the labour unions are expected to call off strike by tomorrow (today). The PIA suffered a revenue loss of around Rs 300mn due to ongoing strike so far as the business had to be diverted to other carriers, he added. Regarding the February 2 deadline given by the labour unions to stop the operations, he said these strikes are no way to resolve the issue and suggested that talks should be started in this regard.

Every government has a basic policy to go for privatisation if an entity is going into loss, he said. While replying to a question, he said the purpose of privatising of an entity is the growth of the entity to generate more revenue. Giving a reply to another query, he said the opposition party Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) approved the privatisation of the National Flag carrier; however, now it is opposing it.

Earlier in the day, the Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that maintaining status quo in the national flag carrier is a crime against the state despite huge losses to the national exchequer. “Maintaining status quo in hugely loss making PIA (380bn liability) & Pakistan Steel Mills (160bn liability) would be a crime against the state….Rs 320bn liability, 180bn negative equity. The government wants to revive past glory, but elements of PIA employees wish to perpetuate plunder,” Asif tweeted on his official twitter account in reaction to the government’s decision for postponing seeking a strategic partner for six more months.

Source: Business Recorder