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July 1, 2020

Cabinet committee takes up privatisation of Roosevelt Hotel

Top Story

July 1, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCOP) is taking up the privatisation of Roosevelt Hotel, Manhattan, New York, which is owned by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA).

As per a “secret, most urgent” notice dated June 19, issued by the Cabinet Division, a copy of which is available with The News, the CCOP is scheduled to meet on Wednesday. However, when contacted, Privatisation Ministry/Commission Secretary Rizwan Malik told this correspondent that the meeting may be held on Wednesday or Thursday because of the session of the federal cabinet. The summary for the privatisation of the Roosevelt Hotel has been prepared by the Aviation Division. Adviser on Finance and Revenue Dr Hafeez Shaikh will chair the discussion, to be held in the prime minister’s office. The ministers for communications, law and justice, privatisation and power and advisers on commerce and investment and institutional reforms and austerity have been invited to attend the deliberations. Special invitation has been given to the minister for industries and production and the State Bank of Pakistan governor, among others. Rizwan Malik said the Roosevelt Hotel was not being sold, as was generally understood from the term, privatisation. He said the basic objective was to involve investors so that the PIA gets handsome money to improve its conditions and the asset is utilised in a beneficial manner.

He said the mode and method of the involvement of the investor would be decided by the CCOP, the federal cabinet and the Privatisation Commission board. “It will be an open, transparent process that would be seen and observed by all and sundry. It will be controversy free.”

The secretary agreed that it was not a good time to seek investment in view of the COVID-19, which has affected the business across the globe. He said the process would take a long time as a lot of things were yet to be sorted out before the privatisation.

He said if the government decides to involve the potential investor, a financial adviser has to be appointed. It may take six months or even more, he said and added that the CCOP would give the guidelines as to how and when to launch the process.

The talk of privatisation of the Roosevelt Hotel is going over during the tenures of successive governments the past several years. However, every regime was finally impelled to abandon it on charge, leveled by its detractors, of working out a dubious deal to favour any preferred party.

The issue also came up before a recent meeting of the federal cabinet when outsourcing of some international airports of Pakistan. Some ministers strongly opposed the privatisation of this national asset, located at the most expensive area of New York. A committee was constituted to mull over the privatisation.

During the good old days of the PIA in the seventies, the national carrier had purchased four hotels in New York, Paris, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. Later, the hotels in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were sold. The hotels in New York and Paris are still retained by the PIA.