ISLAMABAD: The much-awaited decision on the fate of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) was deferred indefinitely on Friday by the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP) which simultaneously put on hold the five per cent divestment of the government residual shareholding in the Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDCL).

The transactions of PSM and OGDCL were on the agenda of the CCoP meeting which was rescheduled twice over the past one week.

The CCoP was to discuss the tripartite concession agreement for PSM. The privatisation board had last week decided that the entire land of PSM would remain with the government while its plant and machinery would be handed over to the new company for a maximum of 30 years. The board decided that no asset of the country’s largest industrial complex would be sold.

A day before the CCoP meeting, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar chaired a special meeting on Thursday to discuss the PSM issue and directed all stakeholders to work together to formulate a timely and effective solution for addressing the liabilities of the mills which were causing a strain on the national exchequer.

Political analysts believe that the government deferred the transactions of PSM and OGDCL because of the prevailing political situation. They are of the opinion that at a time when the government is already embroiled in the Panamagate case and facing a strong opposition, particularly from the Pakistan Peoples Party, allowing these transactions would provide fresh ammo to the opposition.

At Friday’s meeting, Mr Dar expressed his confidence that the decision to defer the transactions of PSM and OGDCL would pave way for economic growth of the country and also improve financial health of the entities. He asked the Privatisation Commission to ensure transparency in carrying out the transactions as well as welfare of the workers.

At Thursday’s meeting, the finance minister said the government was committed to finding a way forward and asked the Privatization Commission and the Ministry of Industries and Production to ensure effective coordination to resolve the outstanding issues of PSM.

The CCoP considered the strategic sale of Kot Addu Power Company (Kapco) and directed the Privatisation Commission and water and power ministry to complete all formalities before formal approval.

The committee approved the transaction structure for privatisation of SME Bank in line with the guidelines of the State Bank. It also approved the divestment of 18.3pc government shareholding in Mari Petroleum Company Ltd, either through joint venture partners (Fauji Foundation and OGDCL) or domestic stock exchanges.

The committee approved initiation of the process for listing of Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) shares on the Pakistan Stock Exchange through IPO (initial public offer).

The CCoP recommended inclusion of House Building Finance Corporation Limited and First Women Bank Limited in the ‘Privatisation Programme for Early Implementation’.

The meeting was attended by ministers Zahid Hamid and Shahid Khakan Abbasi, Privatisation Commission Chairman Mohammad Zubair, Board of Investment Chairman Miftah Ismail and SECP Chairman Muhammad Zafar-ul-Haq Hijazi.

Reforms in PIA

Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal on Friday chaired the second meeting of the special committee formed by the ECC to bring structural reforms to the Pakistan International Airlines.

He said that revenue maximisation, cost rationalisation and growth driven based on improved services and end-to-end envisioned business plan were needed for the revival of PIA.

Mr Iqbal said the new business plan of PIA should include improvement in safety, food and entertainment, adding that special attention should be paid to the loss-making routes and with the passage of time new fleet of aircraft would be added to offer world class quality services to passengers.

Published in Dawn January 28th, 2017

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