ISLAMABAD: The federal government has silently withdrawn plans to privatise the Jinnah Convention Centre — a landmark of the capital — despite an earlier decision to privatise public-sector enterprises.
“The privatisation of Jinnah Convention Centre was suggested to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of the original plan shared with it [IMF],” Privatization Commission Secretary Ahmad Nawaz Sukhera told The Express Tribune while acknowledging that the centre was no more on the active list.
Answering a question, Sukhera said the IMF never demanded that the facility must be privatised but it was suggested by the government.
Interestingly, this development seems contrary to an assurance given by the government to the IMF regarding its privatisation plan.
The government had assured the Fund that it would complete this transaction by the end of August 2015.
The sixth review report of the IMF released on April 7 this year says Pakistan has given a written confirmation to IMF that it will sell out 100 per cent assets of the convention centre by end August.
“We have hired a financial adviser for the convention centre [privatization] in January 2015 for a transaction by August 2015,” says the review report available on the IMF website.
However, insiders claim the government never hired or even advertised the expression of interest for financial advisory services for the centre’s privatisation.
The convention centre was among eight state-owned entities the government had identified to be privatised during the ongoing financial year 2015-16.
Located at one end of Constitution Avenue, the building was put on the privatisation list by the Nawaz Sharif government soon after the centre’s inauguration in 1997. But for reasons the transaction never materialised.
As the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government assumed power in 2013, it once again included the building in its privatisation programme only to withdraw it later.
The government had estimated that it could earn over Rs12 billion from sale of this building.
A few months ago, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan had informed the Senate that the government was privatising the complex as it was a loss-making facility. He had informed that the government was incurring a loss of Rs56 to Rs60 million a year from it.
The convention centre was built to host the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in 1997.
The covered area of the building is 202,075 square feet and its several halls and galleries have a combined seating capacity of 2,200 people at one time. The building also houses five committee rooms and 32 smaller conference rooms, along with three parking lots with a total capacity of over 1,000 cars.
Currently, the facility is being managed by the Capital Development Authority and is mainly used by universities to hold convocations and by the government for ceremonies on national days.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.