All State enterprises except strategic to be privatised: PM

——— Says loss-making SOEs to be privatised on priority basis
——— Stresses on importance of foreign investment
——— Asserts goal is to achieve economic revival goals
——— Directs routing proportion of country’s imports through Gwadar Port

By Asghar Ali Mubarak

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will privatise all state-owned enterprises, with the exception of strategic enti-ties, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif announced on Tuesday, broadening its initial plans to take only loss-making state firms private.
The premier chaired a review meeting and green-lighted privatisation of profitable and loss-making SOEs. Shehbaz directed all federal ministries to take necessary action in this regard and cooperate with the Privatisation Commission, adding that the move aimed at ensuring a business and investment-friendly environment.
Directing concerned authorities to ensure transparency, the premier ordered to televise the privatisa-tion process of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), including the bidding.
Following the premier’s instructions, the privatisation process of other institutions will also be broad-cast live.
A roadmap of the Privatisation Programme 2024-2029 was presented during the meeting and the min-isters were informed about the progress made so far for the privatisation of SOEs.
It was informed that the pre-qualification process for PIA’s privatisation will be completed by the end of the month and that the privatisation of power distribution companies has also been included in the programme.
It was noted that loss-making SOEs were to be privatised on a priority basis and that a pre-qualified panel of experts is being appointed in the Privatisation Commission to speed up the sell-off process.
On Sunday, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb dismissed the concept of ‘strategic’ SOEs advo-cating for a broad privatisation strategy and reiterating the government’s commitment to tax retailers.
Aurangzeb’s statements came during a pre-budget conference in Lahore, following Deputy Prime Min-ister Ishaq Dar’s announcement that the PML-N government would narrow its business scope to stra-tegic and essential SOEs, with a plan to reduce their number after thorough scrutiny.
Dar in the CCoP meeting said that privatisation of loss-making SOEs was a priority for the government.
The meeting noted that 40 SOEs were currently categorised as strategic but respective ministries would submit their details to the Cabinet Committee on State-Owned Enterprises (CCoSOE) and the CCoSOE would determine the status of the SOEs to be categorised as strategic or essential entities.
However, speaking at the conference, the minister said there was no such thing as a strategic SOE.
Regarding the privatisation of PIA and the Islamabad Airport, the minister said the government was not just looking at foreign investors. “There are local and foreign investors who are bidding [for the SOEs],” he said.
He said if this country had to come out of difficulties, the private sector would have to step forward.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday directed the authorities concerned to ensure rout-ing a proportion of country’s imports, particularly related to the government, through the Gwadar Port. The prime minister made this landmark decision with a view to fully operationalise the Gwadar Port.
He was chairing a high level meeting on the projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and Chinese investment.
The prime minister instructed all the ministries to enhance collaboration for swift execution of the CPEC’s second phase and warned against any laxity by the ministries and government departments.
Instructing the provision of foolproof security to the Chinese workers, he said the promotion of trade and commerce ties with time-tested friend China was welcoming.
He told the meeting that Pakistan-China partnership was on the highest ever level, so the relevant of-ficers and departments should strive for the positive outocmes of this relationship.
Federal ministers Ahsan Iqbal, Muhammad Aurangzeb, Jam Kamal Khan, Ahad Khan Cheema, Rana Tanveer Hussain, Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Sardar Awais Khan Leghari, Dr Musaddik Malik, and Abdul Aleem Khan, SAPM Tariq Fatemi, PM’s Coordinator Rana Ehsan Afzal and relevant senior officers at-tended the meeting. The provincial chief secretaries joined the meeting via video link.