THE government decision to ‘outsource’ the operations and land assets of the three main airports in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad is a welcome development, and anticipates a significantly large investment from Qatar. That the government has decided to transfer these airports to private operators through public-private partnership, instead of going for outright privatisation, will help it circumvent long and tedious processes and avoid controversies associated with such policy actions in Pakistan. The Economic Coordination Committee has also approved the hiring of the International Finance Corporation — the private sector arm of the World Bank Group — as transaction adviser, which shows that the authorities are trying to expedite matters. Nonetheless, it is difficult to expect the whole process to conclude without any challenge from domestic airlines and the political opposition.

The trend to privatise, or transfer the management and operations of airports to private investors or private operators, has been growing worldwide since the early 1980s. This has both its advantages and disadvantages. But studies on such experiments elsewhere have shown that the benefits far outweigh the costs. The main benefit of any form of privatisation is the fact that it increases efficiency through investment in technology and the automation of processes to provide passengers reliable and less costly services. As the number of passengers travelling by air rises, the present infrastructure at Pakistani airports is coming apart. The situation requires massive capital investment in expansion and upgradation. With the government strapped for cash, private operators are in a better position to determine when and where to spend money to improve service delivery in order to facilitate the passengers without burdening taxpayers. The handing over of these airports to private operators should hopefully pave the way for more foreign airlines too begin flight operations in Pakistan or use one of the airports as their regional hub. If that happens, it will be a huge boost to the local tourism industry.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

Course correction
Updated 24 Feb, 2024

Course correction

PTI should not abandon its power and responsibility while expecting an external stakeholder to set things right.
The plot thickens
Updated 24 Feb, 2024

The plot thickens

THE recent explosive allegations by Liaquat Ali Chattha, the former commissioner of Rawalpindi, have thrust the...
Trigger-happy police
24 Feb, 2024

Trigger-happy police

ARE the citizens of Karachi becoming fair game again? There were some grisly signs of a rapid return to living...
What next for PTI?
Updated 23 Feb, 2024

What next for PTI?

THE incoming government has been carved up. With the major offices apportioned between the PML-N and PPP, the...
Tackling debt
23 Feb, 2024

Tackling debt

MANY would tend to describe a new report warning that the country is headed for “inevitable default”, which will...
Imprisoned abroad
23 Feb, 2024

Imprisoned abroad

THE issue of Pakistani prisoners imprisoned in foreign jails crops up regularly, particularly during parliamentary...