ISLAMABAD - The opposition is all set to lock horns with government over its decision to privatise Public Sector Entities (PSEs), including PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills, during the current fiscal year.
Opposition parties, in and out of the parliament, had started expostulating government’s gambit to privatise PSEs a couple of months before sensing its intentions. The government side albeit attempted to flaunt benefits of the its presumed move at some of forms, but received strongly demurred by opposition parties.
The opposition factions, after PML-N government’s formal indication to privatise 31 PSEs, have decided to strongly resist the idea to ‘save’ thousands of poor workers. The government last Thursday (October 3) had finally decided to initiate the process of privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) and other public sector entities, as committed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Giving his strong reaction, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) central leader Taj Haider termed it an unconstitutional decision. “After 18th amendment the composition has been changed as now old decision could not be implemented as per rules,” said Taj Haider, talking to TheNation. It would leave very bad effect on labour class and they would strongly oppose it in and outside the parliament, he added.
Having almost same emotions, PPP President Amin Fahim, who had already raised voice in the parliament, said that the PSEs privatised in the past could not become profitable. “What security they would give to the employees of PIA and other organisations. There is need to remove certain loopholes before going for it,” he said, adding the issue should thoroughly be debated before taking any action.
Dr Shireen Mazari of Pakistan Threek-e-Insaaf(PTI) also strongly opposed the government initiative to go for privatisation. “It is not a ‘loot-sale’. Government should bring the issue into the parliament for discussion before taking any decision,“ she said, adding that opposition will strongly raise voice against it.
Opposing the government move, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) senior member Haider Abbas Rizvi said if the government has decided to go for privatisation then the plan should also be shared with all the stakeholders. “What alternate plan government has for thousands of workers who are expected to be laid off,” he said, adding that it should be discussed in the parliament. “The next step after the privatisation, which any given organisation would take, will be downsizing; and it should not be confused with rightsizing,” he argued.
It has been largely reported the government has decided to privatise 31 public sector entities during the current financial year 2013-14 including banking, petroleum, insurance and energy sector companies, and other key entities like PIA, PSM and Utilities Stores Corporation.
Pakistan had agreed with IMF to privatise PSEs for $6.7 billion loan program under extended funds facility (EFF). The country was supposed to develop and approve a reform strategy for at least 30 public sector enterprises (PSEs) out of the 65 short listed firms for privatisation, according to the IMF documents. Therefore, the Cabinet Committee on Privatization (CCoP) had decided to privatize 31 public sector entities.
The treasury side was to brief lawmakers in the Lower House about the IMF loans in the 5th NA session, but Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had left for US along with the prime minister in the recent visit, and the matter of foreign loan’s condition could not be discussed. Economic pundits say that several key state-owned institutions like PIA, Railways, Pakistan Steel Mills, Wapda and other institutions are a major drag on Pakistan’s economy. These loss-making entities are presently bleeding national kitty to the tune of Rs400 billion per annum.