IMF ‘encouraged’ by Pakistani airline reform step

Mission chief for Pakistan says discussion will be held with authorities


Reuters April 13, 2016
PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund is encouraged that Pakistan will convert its cash-strapped national airline into a limited company but said it will see if the reforms go far enough in restructuring the loss-making entity.

Parliament adopted a law on Monday to convert Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) into a limited company but it prevents the government from giving up its management control. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made the privatisation of the company a top goal when he came to power in 2013.

The privatisation of it and 67 other state-owned companies also a major element of the $6.6 billion IMF package that helped Pakistan stave off default in 2013. It will end in September this year.

“We are encouraged that a consensus has been reached on corporatisation of PIA,” Harald Finger, IMF mission chief for Pakistan, told Reuters in an email. “We will need to study the approved bill and discuss with the authorities their emerging plans to run PIA strictly as a commercial entity and strengthen its performance in the absence of a transfer of management control to a private investor.”

PIA has accumulated losses of more than $3 billion. It and other loss-making companies, including power distribution companies and steel giant Pakistan Steel Mills, cost the government an estimated $5 billion a year.

In February, the IMF released the last $497 million tranche of its loan, even after Pakistan shelved plans to privatise its power supply companies and said it would miss deadlines to sell other loss-making state firms. Another $1.1 billion remains to be released. 

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th,  2016.

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