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LAHORE: The Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LCCI) on Thursday called for restructuring of loss-making State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to control heavy loss to the national exchequer and for saving precious foreign exchange.

In a statement issued here, LCCI President Kashif Anwar, Senior Vice President Zafar Mahmood Chaudhry and Vice President Adnan Khalid Butt said that keeping in view the massive loss being caused by the SOEs, the government should take measures on war footing to make those organisations profitable or go for the option of privatization.

They said the outstanding domestic debt and liabilities of the SOEs stood at Rs 1,972 billion in December 2022. The losses of SOEs result in misallocation of taxpayers’ money and reduce the fiscal space for social sector development. The government must lay down a clear plan about restructuring of SOEs.

They said that every year, a considerable amount from taxes collected from the business community has to be allocated by the government to fulfil the debt obligations of the loss-making SOEs, which can otherwise be utilised for constructive development activities.

They said that in the advanced economies like the United States, United Kingdom and Japan etc, the role of SOEs is minimal and the private sector is the most important instrument of socio-economic prosperity, and there is continued growth of privately-run corporations.

LCCI President Kashif Anwar said the significance of SOEs could not be ignored, in view of the fact that they remained the most employment-intensive and capital-intensive organizations.

They suggested formation of a committee of experts from public and private sectors to revisit strategy and adopt methods which provide a new impetus to the SOEs. They said the committee should go deep into the broader political philosophy and vision under which the SOEs could play their role in the new competitive environment.

They said that SOEs of Pakistan should continue to remain the backbone of the economy and therefore their revival was critical to economic survival. They said it was necessary for the government to increase its efforts for revival of the SOEs. They said that greater autonomy and non-interference in their functioning have to be guaranteed so that the country could fully reap the benefits of SOEs. They said that SOEs were not only industries for short-term economic and commercial gains but are national assets.

LCCI President particularly mentioned Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), saying that that organisation was not only a major source of steel products supply to the various domestic industries but was also had vital importance for defence industry. He said that due to closure of PSM, domestic industry was relying on import of raw materials and huge foreign exchange was being spent for that purpose. He said that revival of PSM should be top priority of the government.

The LCCI office-bearers urged the government to take immediate measures for restructuring of loss-making SOEs.

Kashif Anwar said that national flag carrier Pakistan International Airline was in dire need of new blood and additional aircraft that could be possible with special efforts of the government. He said that cut in political interference, training of staff members and cost cutting measures could control the losses of the airline and streamlining of flight operations will lead to sustainable revenues to the PIA.

The LCCI President also called for a salvage plan for a Pakistan Railways saying that Indian Railways was earning billions of dollars for the economy while situation in Pakistan was otherwise.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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