Caretaker govt can speed up sick SOEs selloff: minister

He says previous elected govt made necessary amendments to relevant law empowering caretakers to carry forward privatisation process

By Mehtab Haider & Ag App
September 22, 2023
Caretaker Minister for Privatization Fawad Hassan Fawad (left) while addressing a press conference withMinister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi on September 21, 2023. — APP

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting outright any special agenda, Caretaker Minister for Privatization Fawad Hassan Fawad Thursday said the caretaker government was fully empowered under law to expedite the process for privatization of loss-making state-owned enterprises (SOEs), initiated way back in 2001-02.


Addressing a news conference here along with Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi, he clarified that no addition was made to the privatization list, which was updated by the last successive elected governments, reports APP.

He said the previous elected government had made necessary amendments to the relevant law empowering the caretakers to carry forward the privatization process.

Fawad reaffirmed that whatever authority the caretaker government was exercising, was within the ambit of law, as it was only completing the privatization process of SOEs, which was initiated by the last government but their transactions were not yet finalized.

The minister said a time-frame was duly fixed to carry out the privatization of each loss-making entity that could not be skipped.

He, however, dispelled the impression that he had been given a special task to shut down the operations of a certain organization.

Fawad stated that the PIA had come up with the idea of debt restructuring but it’s too early to take any decision upon their request.

“I can guarantee that the PIA will not be closed down as first it will be restructured and then privatized under the laid down rules and procedures,” Fawad said.

The minister said the employees of the privatized SOEs, including PIA, would not be sacked and in case of moving ahead a voluntary separation scheme would be introduced.

Fawad said when he took over the charge, the PIA was on the verge of collapse and its operation might have shut down.

His first assignment was to provide loans for keeping the PIA afloat so he managed to avoid its closure.

“The caretaker government has been empowered to take decisions, including on restructuring and privatizing the SOEs, so all rules and procedures will be followed,” he said, adding that no rules and procedures will be skipped while privatizing any entity.

The minister assured that there would be no delays in decision-making on his part.

He said the Roosevelt Hotel in New York had been leased out and now an advertisement was given in the international media to hire financial advisors with the mandate to find a workable solution.

No decision has yet been made about sale of Roosevelt Hotel, he added.

When his attention was drawn towards constitution of Cabinet Committee on Privatisation under his supervision which was contrary to the past practice as it was always constituted under chairmanship of minister for finance which was termed by many conflict of interest, Fawad replied that there was no conflict of interest and promised to sit with journalists who had raised such issues.

Meanwhile, in a bid to comply with the IMF’s condition, the Ministry of Finance Thursday released an outdated (2020-21) report showing the top 10 SOEs total accumulated loss of Rs500 billion on annual basis.

According to the report, Quetta Electric Supply Company stood at number one among the top 10 loss-making SOEs.

The report shows the PIA losses stood at Rs36 billion for 2020-21 but the 2022 data showed on its balance sheet that the losses had accumulated to Rs88 billion. The Ministry of Finance did not bother to incorporate the latest data on the SOEs.

However, the Caretaker Minister for Finance Dr Shamshad Akhtar ruled out the possibility of moratorium on debt or restructuring of loss-making PIA and said the government extended its support for securing loans to keep the national flag carrier afloat.

She stated that the debt restructuring of PIA was not an easy thing to do.

Shamshad said the maiden meeting of the Cabinet Committee on SOEs was held but the forum deferred the draft policy of SOEs with the purpose to further deliberate upon it.

“Now all SOEs would be run on professional basis whereby their boards and management would be separated and run on professional basis.

The Central Monitoring Unit (CMU) has been established under the newly enacted SOE law approved by the Parliament.

“The guarantees of SOEs would also be shared to bring transparency, as both the guarantees given in rupees or foreign exchange would be made public, she said, adding that everything approved by the cabinet committee on SOEs would finally be ratified by the federal cabinet.

The top ten loss-making SOEs included Quetta Electric Power Company with a loss of Rs108.5 billion, National Highway Authority (NHA) Rs94.3 billion, Pakistan Railways Rs50.2 billion, Sukkur Electric Power Company Rs40.8 billion, PIA with Rs36.07 billion, SSGCL Rs21.4 billion, Pakistan Steel Mills Rs20.6 billion, Hesco Rs17.7 billion, Pakistan State Oil Company Rs14.8 billion and Peshawar Electric Power Company Rs14.6 billion. Among the top ten profit-making SOEs, OGDCL stands at number one by earning a profit of Rs100.08 billion, Pakistan Petroleum Limited Rs49.4 billion, National Bank of Pakistan Rs30.6 billion, Government Holding Company Rs29.8 billion, National Power Parks Management Rs28 billion, Port Qasim Authority Rs15.4 billion, National Transmission and Dispatch Company Rs9.3 billion, Pak Kuwait Investment Company Rs6.3 billion, Faisalabad Electric Power Company Rs6.08 billion and Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation Limited Rs6.02 billion.