- Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on priority in sell-off list
- Interim prime minister also dismisses notion that people leaving Pakistan sign of failure
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has said the government was fast-tracking the privatisation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and related entities, with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on the priority list, state-run APP reported on Friday.
In this regard, he added, some tangible results were expected to be achieved by mid-January.
“With its good governance and reformative approach, the interim government will leave a legacy on the domestic front,” Kakar said in a session titled ‘Breakfast with the Prime Minister’ organised by the Jang Group of Publications in Islamabad.
It may be noted that the Ministry of Privatisation has recently stated that arrangement of funds for the loss-making PIA by the Finance Ministry is challenging due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.
The Privatisation Commission (PC) Board has also tasked Financial Advisor Ernest & Young-led consortium to prepare a plan for the privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited (PIACL) by end of December 2023, sources in the PC told Business Recorder last week.
The staff-level agreement (SLA) with the IMF on the first review of the $3 billion Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) was reached last week, and the subsequent press release by the IMF Mission stated: “Following passage of the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) law, the authorities are moving forward with their SOE policy and implementation of their triage plan, including the privatization of select SOEs.”
‘Brain drain can become brain asset’
Meanwhile, during his speech, PM Kakar also dismissed the notion that people leaving the country to move abroad was a sign of any failure.
“Brain drain can become a brain asset [in future] and this is a sanguine and positive way to perceive it … Pakistan is a civilisation of diversified creative potential which makes it ‘rich’ in a true sense,” he said.
The interim PM claimed the current caretaker government had to its credit for tackling tough challenges in areas including economy, privatisation, and connectivity. He spoke about his vision regarding prospects for a better Pakistan, terming “skilled human capital as the answer to several challenges”.
Pakistan, being an important regional member of the Economic Cooperation Organization, boasted a strategic location at the confluence of central and south Asia besides its rich natural resources. The 240 million population with a huge youth bulge under the age of 25 adds value to human capital, he added.
He pointed out that it was utmost crucial to provide skill sets to youth through targeted training programmes, and warned that non-utilisation of their energy could lead to detrimental consequences.
Kakar said one of the priorities of the caretaker government was to focus on a programme that would train 1 million nurses in a decade.
Also, the government was exploring partnerships with international conglomerates including Siemens, Germany for the development of skills in different areas.
On attracting foreign investment, he said the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) was providing an opportunity for ease of business, adding that the country expected good news in weeks about foreign investment of billions of dollars in areas of agriculture, information technology and mining.
He expressed confidence that SIFC, a platform with representatives from civil and military domains, would ensure the continuity of projects despite the change of governments. The interim PM also endorsed the idea of including members of the business community to expand its potential.
He said EXIM (Export-Import) Bank was working on providing financial services to Pakistan, which would help the local businessmen and traders to carry out financial transactions abroad.
Highlighting connectivity as a crucial area, he said the Trans-Afghan railway would connect Uzbekistan with Pakistan. Also, the work on the improvement of Quetta-Taftan rail network is underway, the prime minister added.
The recently launched direct flights with Azerbaijan would reduce travel time and promote trade, he mentioned.
The caretaker prime minister favoured reforms in taxation and said his government believed in cutting expenditures and was also working on the forthcoming reforms of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).
“Wealth creation through taxation is the best tool for a government to use the revenue for establishing schools, hospitals, and road infrastructure,” he said.
PM Kakar was of the view that media in Pakistan enjoys freedom and is “beyond any sport of control particularly social media”.
He, however, stressed on formulating regulations after deliberations with stakeholders to cater to the challenges of digital media “without stifling and putting restrictions on it”.
The interim prime minister said the current political scenario is “not a crisis, but a continuation of process in the transitional democracy of Pakistan”.
He expressed optimism that with continuity of the democratic process, the people would gradually start linking parties with their performance and service delivery.
Caretaker PM Kakar emphasised the importance of local government system to address the civic problems faced by the people in remote areas such as south and north Waziristan.
“There is a need to shun the urban-oriented governance and adopt a more inclusive approach of bringing the far-flung areas of the country at par with developed cities,” he said.