ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary forum was informed Thursday that 90 percent of the amount received from privatisation of public sector entities was being spent on retiring government’s debt and 10 percent for poverty alleviation.

This was stated by the secretary Ministry of Privatisation, while briefing the meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Privatisation.

The ministry officials gave a detailed briefing on the overall working and performance of the Ministry of Privatization, its attached departments, and on the consideration of the bill titled, “The Privatization Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2021” referred by the House, was held, under the chairmanship of Senator Shamim Afridi, here at the Parliament House.

The secretary, Ministry of Privatization, briefed the panel on the organisational structure of the ministry, which is divided into, Privatization Division and Privatization Commission and is an independent Organization since 2017.

Senior parliamentarian Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, while expressing serious reservation on the approval of the various public sector entities for privatisation, said that the approval of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) for privatisation must not be ignored.

He added that by law it is a must for the government to get approval of the CCI for the privatization of any public sector entity.

He raised the question that if a conflict of approval occurs between the Cabinet and the CCI, which decision will prevail.

The officials of the ministry said that the privatisation process does not proceed, if such a conflict occurs.

The officials of the Privatisation Commission said that the government is simultaneously working on privatisation of various public sector entities.

“The process of privatisation is long due to the technical issues”.

They further said that Covid-19 has also slowed down the privatisation process.

“There are several bottlenecks in finalising the transaction structures of the entities, which are on the privatisation list.”

Privatisation of some PSEs would be completed in ongoing fiscal year.

The officials expressed hope that privatisation of some PSEs would be completed in the ongoing fiscal year.

The government is likely to accelerate the privatisation programme as it has projected to generate Rs252 billion from the privatisation proceeds in the current fiscal year.

Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had also announced that the government would accelerate the privatisation programme in few months.

He said that 15 highest loss-making entities out of 85 would be handed over to a board within the Privatisation Commission comprising the people of highest calibre who would turn them around and divest 26 percent shares.

The privatisation of SME Bank, First Women Bank Limited, Jinnah Convention Centre, House Building Finance Corporation Limited, and Services International Hotel is in advanced stages.

The officials believed that government might complete the privatisation of aforementioned PSEs in the first half (before December 2021) of the ongoing financial year.

The government has also assured the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to complete the privatisation of few PSEs in the year 2021-22.

Senator Sabir Shah emphasised on the, monitoring and assessment of the process of privatisation (Strategic sale).

Replying to the question of Senator Sabir Shah, the officials of the ministry said that the transaction structure is approved by the Federal Cabinet.

Question was further raised, whether or not; a comparison between the market price and reference price takes place before biding.

The officials of the ministry said that world class financial advisors are appointed for the evaluation of entities.

The officials said that the privatisation process holds complete transparency and goes through PC Board, the CCoP, and the Cabinet for the approval of the reference price.

Senator Irfan Siddique raised an important question on whether who initiates decisions regarding the privatisation of entities.

The officials of the ministry said that the initial proposals are received by the cabinet committee.

Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar said that the unutilized land is the assets of our country and shall be retrieved for the economic growth of the country.

Senator Muhammad Qasim said that a stipulated timeframe should be set, from the time of approval of the entity, for privatisation, till the execution of sale, to keep the upwards trajectory of the economy.

Senator Mehmood Hassan put forward his recommendation for the preservation and protection of the assets of the country, to thoroughly evaluate, whether an entity should be sold or put on lease.

The members of the committee requested the chair for time to deliberate upon the bill as they had received the copies of the bills, late in the evening, consequently, could not study the bill.

The chairman committee deferred the bill, for consideration, in the upcoming meeting.

The meeting was attended by Minister Mian Muhammad Soomro, Senator Anwarul Haq, Mian Raza Rabbani, Rana Mahmoodul Hassan, Syed Muhammad Sabir shah, Muhammad Qasim, Anwar Lal Dean, and Senator Molvi Faiz Muhammad.

Seniors officials from the Privatization Division and the Privatization Commission, and the Ministry of Law and Justice were also in attendance.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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