ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday decided to carry out the necessary legislation in 90 days to outsource all major airports of the country to generate revenue and raise their standard to the international level.
The cabinet meeting, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, was also informed that despite an adverse impact of coronavirus, the economic wheel had started turning and all indicators were showing an upward trend.
Although the issue of Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations was not discussed in the meeting, Information Minister Shibli Faraz, in his post-cabinet meeting press conference, said “Pakistan has to watch its own interests”.
“We have to make the legislation to meet legal requirements as without it we cannot outsource our airports,” Mr Faraz said.
He said out of 27 airports, only Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and Multan were running in profit whereas others were not generating revenue, mainly due to low air traffic.
Minister says majority of country’s airports running in loss; indicators point to upward economic trend
“The prime minister has given timelines to carry out reforms in all sectors; 90 days time has been given to amend Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) laws,” the minister said.
The meeting was told that drafts bills had already been prepared for legislation.
Meanwhile, a source said the cabinet had decided to bifurcate CAA — operational and regulatory (for outsourcing airports) — which was why legislation was needed.
About the scrutiny of 262 pilots’ licences, the meeting decided to complete the process by September 30. In the meantime, their licences will remain suspended.
The information minister said Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh gave a detailed briefing to the cabinet on the state of the country’s economy.
Due to “sagacious policies”, the economic situation was improving and the government had managed to bring down the current account deficit from $20 billion to $3bn, Mr Faraz said.
“Fiscal deficit stood at 8.1pc while foreign exchange reserves of the State Bank of Pakistan had risen to $12.5bn,” he added.
The minister said Moody’s — an international rating agency — confirmed Pakistan’s B3 credit rating with a stable outlook.
He said exports were improving, foreign remittances were increasing and the stock market was seeing a boost, which indicated an upward economic trend.
Talking about Covid-19 and the government’s policies, Mr Faraz said: “We have given unprecedented relief package to the people and the construction sector.”
He said under the Ehsaas programme, the government had distributed financial assistance to 15 million families.
The government, he added, adopted a policy of reducing imports and increasing exports, which had strengthened the economy.
On August 8, Moody’s had kept Pakistan’s rating outlook unchanged and observed that the economy was improving. The agency said the current account deficit, which was the biggest challenge facing the country’s economy, was also shrinking.
The government has welcomed Moody’s move and termed it a good sign under the prevailing economic situation.
Mr Faraz said the previous government had artificially maintained the currency’s exchange rate, adding that the country was facing $20bn deficit when PTI took over.
Relations with S. Arabia
The information minister said the world order was changing in which countries were safeguarding their interests.
“Every country is watching over its national interests and we will take steps necessary to protect ours,” he said.
“We will change our path if anything damages our interests,” he added.
The minister, however, said Saudi Arabia was a brotherly country which had stood by Pakistan in difficult times.
Responding to a question on an incident that took place outside NAB Lahore office during the appearance of Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Mr Faraz said “she should be ashamed of” what she had done.
The PML-N would have to pay for what it has done to Pakistan, he added.
Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2020