Ignoring the golden opportunities

Pakistan is dubbed as the land of opportunities by local and foreign researchers, businessmen and policymakers due to its rich natural and human resources, market size, beautiful landscape, and untapped development in many areas. Unfortunately, despite all these blessings and advantages, we are surprisingly reluctant to reap the benefits of innumerable opportunities being available at our disposal.  
Pakistan Steel Mills is a prime example of the golden opportunities being ignored. It is a giant corporation that has shut down because of incurring immense losses. The organisation is being put on the list of those state-owned companies that must be privatised but things are very slow-moving at the end of the relevant ministry. Yet, the assets in terms of land, location, human resources and infrastructure—manufacturing plants, power producing units and oxygen units—remain to be unused treasure.
Pakistan witnessed the development of various mega projects, particularly the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). However, the contribution by Pakistan Steel Mills for this billion-dollar project amounted to absolutely nothing. In fact, an altogether new company was set up to meet CPEC’s demand of steel products for its projects. It was a big missed opportunity for the corporation which could be have been revived and reformed had it catered to CPEC’s needs. 
Similarly, the government announced a low-cost housing scheme hardly a couple of years ago to meet the deficit of 1.2 million housing units across the country. Thousands of housing units are being developed and the demand of steel products has gone up gradually. The local market players have exhausted their capacity to meet the local demand which also includes the supply of steel products to public sector projects. Local steel mills are expanding their capacities and raising funds. Being public listed companies, they are in line to achieve a promising future but the one active. It is only Pakistan Steel Mills that seems to be lagging far behind. 
The government, with its planned housing schemes, could easily allot a supply quota for Pakistan Steel Mills and that could revive its operations in phases. However, this is not being explored by the incumbent government and neither is it on its agenda. 
Pakistan Steel Mill has also a mega plant that produces oxygen which is being considered to revive in order to meet the rising demand of gas for medical reasons due to Covid-19. Again, there was no significant progress made on this front either. Recently, a local oxygen producer has continued to meet the demand of the local market. Tapping an emerging opportunity, the company is expanding its capacity production all the while keeping in view the prevailing demand for oxygen which is set to rise in the country. 
Pakistan Steel Mills, once the largest industrial complex, had a glorious past not only as a public sector entity but its landmark role in the development of mega projects in the country. It help build communication infrastructure such as bridges, housing societies and units. It was also reported that Pakistan Steel Mills delivered productions orders to renowned global automobile and other companies in the past as well. 
Up until 2008, the state-owned enterprise, with its prevailing challenges and issues, had attained a climax with a profit that touched the highest mark of Rs.1 billion. It retained a significant market share in the overall production of steel products, which are considered as the preferred choice because of their good quality.
Unfortunately, Pakistan Steel Mills had witnessed a period downfall after hitting a historical peak. The then government decided to privatise the company which was stopped by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on various grounds. A few years later, the successive governments could not effectively run the operations of the state-owned corporation which was itself a city in terms of its land size, the capacity of operations, and the number of employees and vendors.
Gradually, widespread corruption, nepotism and financial irregularities became a cancer within the organisation that not only dragged it towards losses but left it in debt of more than Rs.100 billion. This is despite the government’s offered financial support from taxpayers’ money. The company was put on a ventilator for many years and now, it has finally been shut down. However, the corporation is not completely dead. There are hundreds of planned development projects in the pipeline which could be linked with the revival of Pakistan Steel. It will be surely a difficult drive but not impossible to carry out.

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