Govt privatises loss-making PIA

National flag carrier would be divided into two companies — TopCo and HoldCo

It would be challenging for the incoming elected administration if the federal cabinet authorised Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) reorganisation just two days before the general elections in 2024, according to an article published in The News on Wednesday.

Given the financial advisor engaged for the financial reorganisation, TopCo and HoldCo would be the two entities that would make up the national flag carrier.

The important choice was made on Tuesday during a meeting presided over by Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar.

Precision Engineering Complex, PIA Investment Limited, and lower departments and properties would be given to HoldCo, while some fundamental functions, such as engineering, ground handling, flight kitchen, and training, would be assigned to TopCo.

The cabinet was assured by Fawad Hasan Fawad, the interim minister for privatisation, that PIA would draw in investors if this measure was taken.

In order to finish the restructuring process as quickly as possible, the discussion also focused on resolving disagreements regarding payments owed to government agencies against PIA.

In August of last year, the government led by the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) announced that it will privatise the airline as part of a plan for fiscal restraint that was agreed with as part of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.

The airline has been in serious trouble for a while, and in 2030, if immediate corrective action is not taken, including giving its administrative control to the private sector, the airline could suffer alarming losses of Rs259 billion. At the time, Khawaja Saad Rafique was the minister of transportation and aviation.

Following a scandal involving pilot licencing, the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency revoked the national carrier’s authorization to fly to the bloc, leading to the suspension of PIA flights to Europe and the UK starting January 2020.

Additional cabinet choices
In addition, the ministry’s recommendation to the federal cabinet approved the First Woman Bank’s privatisation.

Given the vast supplies of wheat in the nation, the federal cabinet also resolved at its meeting to halt government imports of the grain. The cabinet meeting approved the February 1 resolution of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet to prohibit wheat imports, which would also save foreign currency.

The cabinet meeting observed that flour prices were stable in addition to having enough wheat reserves. It should be mentioned that tenders for the import of 110,000 metric tonnes of wheat were recently released by the Trading Corporation of Pakistan.

Estimates indicate that the nation will likewise reap the benefits of a big wheat crop this season, with wheat production exceeding 32.1 million tons—a 1.8% increase over the objective.

In the first half of the current fiscal year, 1.376 million tonnes of wheat valued at Rs113.13 billion were imported.

The cabinet also approved the deregulation of pharmaceutical prices, with the exception of necessary medications that are not included on the national list, based on the Ministry of National Health Services’ recommendation. By making the required changes to the Drug Policy 2018, it was determined to exempt medications from the Drug Act of 1976.

It was also determined that doctors would not be allowed to give vitamins, multivitamins, minerals, or other such medications to their patients. This would be handled by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. In addition to keeping in touch with the provincial governments, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) would compile a list of vitamins, multivitamins, minerals, etc.

Additionally, it permitted the transformation of four of Peshawar’s eight accountability courts into special courts. Aside from this, the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court’s request to appoint judges to these courts has been approved. The accountability courts will continue to be operated by the other courts. The national exchequer won’t be burdened any more by these adjustments.

On November 29, 2023, the appointment of Lt. General Tahir Hameed Shah as chairman and member of the Wah Ordinance Factories Board was also authorised during the meeting based on the Ministry of Defence Production’s suggestion.

Pharma Bureau and PPMA applaud the ruling.
The federal cabinet’s decision to approve 146 hardship cases that had been pending for more than two years and to deregulate the prices of medications not on the essential medicines list based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) model list has been welcomed by the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) and Pharma Bureau.

The PPMA and Pharma Bureau released a statement stating that this significant move, which adheres to worldwide pharmaceutical best practices and successful models, would guarantee the supply of high-quality medications at reasonable prices and lay the groundwork for a pharmaceutical industry that is export-oriented.

Most significantly, the statement continued, it will lessen the suffering of patients who have experienced severe hardship in recent months as a result of the unavailability of life-saving medications.

The National Essential Medicines List has 464 medications that are still subject to price controls, compared to 232 in India, 117 in Bangladesh, and just 60 in Sri Lanka.

Written by Istafa Ali


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