Roosevelt hotel lease to fetch $220m: Kh Saad

Says 1,025 rooms of hotel will be handed over to NY local government for three years n Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad airports to be outsourced

LAHORE   -    Minister for Aviation and Rail­ways Khawaja Saad Rafique said on Sunday that a con­tract had been signed with the New York City government to operate the renowned Roos­evelt Hotel of the Pakistan In­ternational Airlines (PIA) sit­uated in New York (USA) for three years. In a press confer­ence held at Allama Iqbal In­ternational Airport here, he said revenue of US$220 mil­lion would come to the coun­try as a result of the agreement.Giving details of the agree­ment, he said that 1,025 rooms of the hotel would be handed over to the City government for three years and the initial earn­ings from the hotel had started pouring in.

He said that under the agree­ment, one-year business was guaranteed; however, he ex­pressed his hope that the hotel business would continue for all three years. He said that there were several issues involved in the Roosevelt case, like the hotel was at risk of being declared a landmark after which the build­ing would be unable to be al­tered. However, now the danger had subsided for at least three years, he added. The minister said that earlier the hotel had been closed since the COVID-19 period, and an amount of $25 million was being spent on the closed building and $20 million were pending as the liability.

He said that 479 employ­ees were working in the hotel, which was a big number and it was difficult for the hotel to terminate them from jobs due to the US labour laws. However, now after the agreement, this number would be decreased to 77 at the end of the contract period, he added. He thanked the New York city government for its cooperation.

Regarding the outsourcing of the airports, the minister said that three international air­ports including Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad were being out­sourced and made it clear that outsourcing did not mean pri­vatisation. He said that only op­eration of the airports would be outsourced and not the land or property. As a result of the ar­rangement, new contractors would develop, improve and operate the airports, and after completion of the agreement period, the contractors would handed over it to the govern­ment again. He said that the current administration had put it on the track and soon agree­ments would be signed with the best international airport oper­ators. A credible company, In­ternational Finance Corpora­tion (IFC) of the World Bank, had been given the task of out­sourcing the airports as no Pa­kistani company had the experi­ence in this regard.

He said that several airports including Madina Munawwar­ah, Istanbul, Dubai and others were being operated through the model being introduced in Pakistan now. The minister said that the contracts would be given through open bidding and several international con­tractors showing their inter­est in this regard. He cleared that no employee would be ex­pelled from his service. Kha­waja Saad said that the Civ­il Aviation Authority was also launching high profile projects in which runways at Quetta Airport would be reconstruct­ed and upgraded. He said that Faisalabad runway was al­ready under construction which would be operational soon and Lahore airport’s run­ways would also be upgraded.

He said that work of up-gra­dation at the Karachi Airport was already under construc­tion while Gawadar Interna­tional Airport was also under construction and soon would become operational. He said that the for first time, Hajj op­eration from the Quetta Air­port was successfully in process and the residents of Balochistan were going for the Hajj through this airport. He said that two more airports including Sukkur and Dera Ismail Khan airports would be converted into inter­national airports to facilitate the citizens of the area.

Discussing the issue of a flight 777 of the Pakistan Internation­al Airlines (PIA) stopped by the authorities at the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the minister said that the issue was resolved by the le­gal team of the PIA in 72 hours and now the plane had reached Pakistan after carrying the pas­sengers. Giving details, he said that the aeroplane was a leased plane and the owner company unethically went to the Malay­sian court on which the court seized the flight in an ex-par­ty decision and the PIA was not heard, adding that if the court would have heard the PIA, the incident would not have hap­pened. He thanked Malaysian ambassador in Pakistan for his cooperation. He said that the PIA was a complicated case, adding that several steps were needed to upgrade the depart­ment. He said some improve­ments had been made in the flights like better food quality, seating and services, but yet it needed several other things. He said that currently, the PIA was transporting 65,000 Hajj pil­grims in a big operation. He said that outsourcing was a solu­tion to several problems of the PIA, adding that the PIA could be made two departments in which one PIA would bear the liabilities and the other would be operated according to the in­ternational standards and mod­els. However, he said that no PIA employee would be sacked.

To a question about the ban on the PIA in several countries, he said that the country had to bear Rs 71 billion per annum due to a stupid statement of a former minister, who had some ego issues with the administra­tion. He said that the govern­ment was contacting the gov­ernments of other countries to resolve the issue. The British government had even agreed on restoration of the flights, but some legislation was need­ed in this regard which would also be done soon. He said that the PTI considered itself a par­ty of pious people and all oth­ers were thieves, and this nar­rative damaged the PIA as the former minister in this sense, wanted to say that the previ­ous governments consisted of thieves and all employees re­cruited during those rules were also thieves and corrupt. He said that the fake degree issue was presented in an exaggerat­ed way. To a question, he said that the world model had been changed and the world now thinks that doing business was not the job of governments, as it was the job of businessmen, whereas the job of the govern­ment was to regulate the sys­tem. He added that the country which only focused on its reg­ulations instead of doing busi­ness, progressed a lot.

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