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Published 12 May, 2024 02:48pm

No such thing as strategic state-owned enterprises, says Finance Minister Aurangzeb

Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb on Sunday said that there was “no such thing” as strategic state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as he stressed the need for privatisation.

He made the remarks at a pre-budget conference in Lahore, two days after Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar said the government would limit its business only to strategic and essential SOEs under its domain but their number would be reduced from 40 after scrutiny.

Chairing the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP) meeting, which was attended by the finance minister, Dar said privatisation of loss-making SOEs would be a priority.

The meeting noted that 40 SOEs were currently categorised as strategic or essential, but respective ministries would submit their details to the Cabinet Committee on State-Owned Enterprises (CCoSOE). The CCoSOE will determine the status of the SOEs to be categorised as strategic or essential entities.

Speaking on Sunday, Aurangzeb said: “There is no such as [a] strategic SOE.”

Talking about the meeting chaired by Dar on Friday, he continued, “We are absolutely on the same wavelength — that there is no such thing as a strategic SOE.”

The finance minister said that a meeting would be held tomorrow where “we will go back to various ministries and say that all this should be handed over to the private sector”.

“There will be public-private partnership and we will accelerate the privatisation agenda,” he said.

Commenting on concerns regarding the privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Aurangzeb said the government was not just looking at foreign investors.

“They are local and foreign investors who are bidding […] there is no such thing that we are only looking at foreign investors,” he said.

Commenting on a fresh loan programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, he said that a larger and longer programme was needed to bring “permanence in macroeconomic stability and structural reforms”.

He also talked about energy reforms, saying that there were “leakages” and stressed the need for stopping theft. He said that changes were being brought to the boards of distribution companies (Discos) in order to bring in those from the private sector for “better corporate governance”.

“And then you will see how we bring those Discos towards concessions or privatisation or a combination of both,” he emphasised.

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