‘Humanitarian grounds’: PSM granted Rs480 million for disbursement of salaries

Amount will cover salaries for April; May and June payments to be made later on.

Our Correspondent July 17, 2015
The decision has been taken on humanitarian grounds for the PSM employees, and their families. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Thursday approved the grant of Rs480 million for paying salaries to over 16,500 employees of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) ahead of Eidul Fitr.  

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar gave the anticipatory approval in his capacity as Chairman Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, as the formal approval could not be obtained due to his absence from the country.

Dar is currently in Saudi Arabia along with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The formal approval of the ECC will be obtained after his return.

The amount has been approved to pay the salaries for the month of April while the salaries for the month of May and June will be paid later.

“The decision has been taken on humanitarian grounds with a view to enable employees and families of PSM to take part in Eidul fitr festivities,” according to a handout issued by the Ministry of Finance.

The summary to extend the grant was moved by the Privatisation Commission (PC). PSM is on government’s active list of privatisation and under the Privatisation Ordinance, the administrative control of any such entity rests with the Commission.

However, the PC is unable to exercise this right over Pakistan International Airlines.

With the fresh injection, the PML-N government has given over Rs20 billion to the ailing industrial unit in last two years. It had initially approved Rs18.5 billion bailout programme on the promise that the PSM will achieve 77% production capacity from January 2015.

This target was never achieved and the entity’s production capacity has lately dropped to zero after it could not settle gas dues with Sui Southern Gas Company Limited. The SSGC has cut the gas supplies after payables increased to Rs35 billion.

The gas supplies are expected to resume at full pressure from next Wednesday after the PSM management assured the Ministry of Petroleum that it will clear the current gas dues at the end of every month, said PC Chairman Mohammad Zubair while talking to The Express Tribune.

He said the issue of paying past arrears will be settled separately, as the government was in process of privatising the entity in the next six to seven months.

The PSM consumed Rs19 billion worth of gas since March last year. However, its sales were less than half of the total gas bill, which increased the outstanding dues to Rs35 billion.

The PSM has approximately Rs9 billion inventories, which is also a matter of concern.

To review the affairs, a meeting was held this week in Karachi, attended by the financial advisers, hired to privatise the entity and other senior government functionaries.

“We are expecting to finalise the transaction structure of the PSM in the next two weeks”, said Zubair, hoping that the transaction will be completed within this fiscal year.

“So far no decision has been taken on treating liabilities of PSM,” he added. The options were whether to park the PSM liabilities somewhere else or retain them on the books.

The transaction structure is expected to be presented to Cabinet Committee on Privatisation by mid-August and an Expression of Interest (EOI) to invite prospective bidders may be issued in September, the chairman said.

However, Zubair maintained that it was one of the most complex transactions in terms of its financial conditions and the political sensitivities attached with its privatisation.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set December 2015 as deadline for the PSM privatisation but Zubair said the deadline was subject to the prevailing circumstances.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2015.

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Mujahid Tabrez Qadri | 8 years ago | Reply This humanitarian spirit is expected to be maintained in the future also so that the 16000 employees of the PSM are able to meet the monthly expenses of their families regularly.The government may do whatever it likes about the future of the PSM but the rights of the employees, serving as well as retired, must be kept in view all the time. The serving employees have been getting their salaries after a delay of three to four months for the last many years whereas the retired employees have not been paid their dues for more than two years.
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