Monday, February 20, 2012

Save Pakistan's Education, Airline & Railways

"...under 1.5% of GDP [is] going to public schools that are on the front line of Pakistan's education emergency, or less than the subsidy for PIA, Pakistan Steel, and Pepco." Pakistan Education Task Force Report 2011

Pakistan has ordered 5 Boeing 777s and 75 train engines for its state-owned companies in a bid to catch up with rising passenger and cargo service demands, according to media reports.

Boeing, the American aerospace giant, has announced the $1.5 billion deal with Pakistan International Airline (PIA) which includes a firm order of five 777-300ER (extended range) jets as well as the purchase rights for an additional five, according to Fox News.

Separately, The News is reporting that Pakistan Railway is purchasing 75 Chinese-made train engines for $105 million.

Highways have now become the most important segment of transport sector in the country, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan. At the time of Pakistan's independence in 1947, transportation by roads accounted for only 8% of all traffic. Today, it accounts for 92% of national passenger traffic and 96% of freight.

The last decade has seen major competition coming from first-class private bus services now operated on modern motorways in all parts of Pakistan. The best known of these is Daewoo bus service with its comfortable luxury coaches and stewardesses offering meal services. With the construction and expansion of national highways and motorways, the trucking industry has also grown by leaps and bounds in the last few decades.

In mid-90s, Pakistan Railway had 10.45% share of passenger traffic and 5.17% of freight traffic, which has declined to 9.95% and 4.72% respectively by the year 2006-07, according to Economic Survey of Pakistan.

Pakistan Railway has been weighed down by heavy expenses of payroll and rising corruption and incompetence. As a result, a large number of engines are no longer operational and there have been big cuts in service.

After gaining domestic and international traffic market share for several decades after independence, Pakistan International airline has been losing it in recent decades because of serious problems of corruption and mismanagement by the cronies of the ruling politicians. PIA is now losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year while being hit by lean and mean domestic private airlines and international competition from rising Gulf giants like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Today, PIA's employee to aircraft ratio of 450 is more than twice as much as some of its competitors. "Politically motivated inductions have been the major cause of the significant increase in human resource burden in this organization," the State Bank of Pakistan said recently.

Pakistani taxpayers are heavily subsidizing the national airline at the expense of much more crucial public sectors like education. Last year, a Pakistani government commission on education found that public funding for education has been cut from 2.5% of GDP in 2007 to just 1.5% - less than the annual subsidy given to the various PSUs including PIA, the national airline that continues to sustain huge losses.

The latest example of the use of public funds to buy support for the government is Rs 366 million given in "discretionary development funds" as reward to senators for passing the 20th Constitutional Amendment with more than two-third majority, according to Pakistani media reports.

The crux of the issue for the bloated public sector units like PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan Railways is the reprehensible system of political patronage which puts the wrong people in charge of them. The sooner PIA, PR and other PSUs become privatized, the easier it will be to revive them for better service and improved profitability. It will turn them into a source of much needed revenue for the public treasury, just as the denationalization of banks did in the last decade.

From an after-tax loss of Rs. 9.77 billion in 2001 (when MCB, Habib, UBL and Allied were government owned) the earnings of these privatized banks rose to a profit after-tax of Rs. 73.115 billion in 2007. Higher earnings meant increased tax contribution by these banks to the government from Rs 10.8 billion in 2001 to Rs. 33.8 billion in 2007, according to data provided by former State Bank governor Mr. Shahid Kardar.

Even if privatization of the heavily subsidized public sector units does not yield higher tax revenue from them, it will at least free up public funds for more pressing needs like education, health care, energy, water and public infrastructure development.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Infrastructure

British Aid for Pakistani Schools

Pakistan's Twin Energy Shortages

Cycles of Floods & Droughts

Resilient Pakistan Defies Doomsayers

Political Patronage Trumps Public Policy in Pakistan

Pakistan's Tax Evasion Fosters Aid Dependence
Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin Resigns
Musharraf's Legacy

US Fears Aid Will Feed Graft in Pakistan

Pakistan Swallows IMF's Bitter Medicine

Shaukat Aziz's Economic Legacy

Power and Patronage in Pakistan

Pakistan's Energy Crisis

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance


Anonymous said...

Pakistani railways has gone bankrupt, is not operating most of its trains and has no money to buy diesel, and the no of kilometers of track has actually REDUCED since 1947.
On the other hand Indian railways has become a profit making enterprise, and has expanded multi-fold since independence, and has aquired expertise for buliding modern metro lines too(like delhi).

So what is your explanation for this?

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "So what is your explanation for this?"

Indian railway has also been losing its share of India's transport market. Today, 90% of India's passenger traffic and 65% of its freight operations use road transportation, according to World Bank.,,contentMDK:22927125~menuPK:50003484~pagePK:2865066~piPK:2865079~theSitePK:295584,00.html

Talking about Pakistan Railway, it has been a victim of corruption & incompetence that came with its use as a vehicle for political patronage.

Contrast this with private run road transport which has thrived in Pakistan because of its modern motorways combined with reliable & superior service at reasonable prices, making it the primary choice for more than 90% of passenger and freight traffic.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a press release of Daewoo Bus Service in Pakistan published in Business Recorder supplement that gives a flavor of what it does:

Daewoo Pakistan Express Bus Service is a trusted name among people because it has revolutionised concept of road transport in Pakistan.

Journey on luxurious buses of Daewoo Pakistan Express, are secure, memorable and comfortable.

Renowned for punctuality and safety, we are first choice of families who enjoy journey with us as much as the enjoy picnic.

People's trust has not been built overnight.

It has taken a decade plus of professional competency, a teamwork and never ending eagerness to seek continuous improvement.

Patronage by people and extra work by our team has created a legend.

Daewoo Pakistan Express made a humble start in 1998 on Rawalpindi-Lahore Route.

Today, it's truly country wide transport system which serves millions of people, living in 40 cities and 45 destinations.

We operate 266 buses which carry approximately 22,000 people daily.

Our most recent endeavour has been linking Murree with 10 other cities so that families can travel to the most famous hill station in comfort and style.

Similarly a new route Lahore to Dera Ismail Khan via Sargodha, Mianwali has been introduced.

Our other preferred services include Cargo and Lahore City Bus Service, each providing its unique advantages to the customers.

Our Cargo service is preferred choice for fast and secure transportation of documents and goods.

Our Lahore City Bus Service is only Foreign A/C Urban Bus Operator in Urban Transport Sector of Pakistan in the cosmopolitan city of Lahore.

Daewoo Pakistan Express has many futuristic plans which shall contribute towards Pakistan economic development and people's comfort.

Daewoo Pakistan Express is not just a transport company but a concept where we are fully engaged with our partner people.

We have never hesitated to fulfil our corporate social responsibility and have stood shoulder to shoulder with Pakistani nation in time of need.

We made all possible contributions during earth quack of 2005 and recent floods.

Our success is based upon our 400 men/women team which is highly motivated, professional and dedicated.

Each member of our work force is important and their well knit team actions have earned us reputation of best transport company in the country.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts of BBC's Soutik Biswas's review of Pulitzer-winning New Yorker reporter Katherine Boo's "Beautiful Forevers":

"We try so many things," a girl in Annawadi, a slum in Mumbai tells Katherine Boo, "but the world doesn't move in our favour".

Annawadi is a "sumpy plug of slum" in the biggest city - "a place of festering grievance and ambient envy" - of a country which holds a third of the world's poor. It is where the Pulitzer prize winning New Yorker journalist Boo's first book Behind the Beautiful Forevers is located.

Annawadi is where more than 3,000 people have squatted on land belonging to the local airport and live "packed into, or on top of" 335 huts. It is a place "magnificently positioned for a trafficker in rich's people's garbage", where the New India collides with the Old.

Nobody in Annawadi is considered poor by India's official benchmarks. The residents are among the 100 million Indians freed from poverty since 1991, when India embarked on liberalising its economy.
She used more than 3,000 public records, many obtained using India's right to information law, to validate her narrative, written in assured reported speech. The account of the hours leading to the self-immolation of Fatima Sheikh derives from repeated interviews of 168 people as well as police, hospital, morgue and court records. Mindful of the risk of over interpretation, the books wears its enormous research lightly.
The local councillor runs fake schools, doctors at free government hospitals and policemen extort the poor with faint promise of life and justice, and self-help groups operate as loan sharks for the poorest. The young in Annawadi drop dead like flies - run over by traffic, knifed by rival gangs, laid low by disease; while the elders - not much older - die anyway. Girls prefer a certain brand of rat poison to end their lives.
Boo has an interesting take on corruption, rife in societies like India's. Corruption is seen as blocking India's global ambitions. But, she writes, for the "poor of a country where corruption thieved a great deal of opportunity, corruption was one of the genuine opportunities that remained".

On the other hand, Boo believes, corruption stymies our moral universe more than economic possibility. Suffering, she writes, "can sabotage innate capacities for moral action". In a capricious world of corrupt governments and ruthless markets the idea of a mutually supportive community is a myth: it is "blisteringly hard", she writes, to be good in such conditions. "If the house is crooked and crumbling", Boo writes, "and the land on which it sits uneven, is it possible to make anything lie straight?

Anonymous said...

Indian railways carries nearly ONE

Also For LONG distance travel Railways are the preferred mode

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Also For LONG distance travel Railways are the preferred mode"

Let me share with you what issues Indian transportation customers in need of a reliable, modern supply chain are facing. Here are excerpts of a 2011 Reuters' story:

Seven years ago, when India's Future Group retail giant sent shipments from Mumbai on the country's west coast to Kolkata in the north-east, the products took 10 nervous days to arrive.

"You sent the goods, and until you received them, you just prayed," said Anshuman Singh, managing director and chief executive officer of Future Supply Chains. "There was just a black hole until they finally reached the destination."

Since then, he has wrestled with shoddy roads, minimal cold storage capacity and a myriad of state regulations and taxes to cut the journey to 72 hours. That challenge is all to come for foreign retailers eyeing a slice of India's $450 billion market.

Major cities in Asia's third-largest economy are thousands of miles apart, connected by pot-holed and clogged roads or creaking railways where wagons are in short supply.

Global giants such as Wal-Mart may be eager to start selling their wares to 1.2 billion people, but a need to first tackle India's logistical headaches will likely mean they will be heavily dependent on local expertise.
At 4 a.m. every day, hundreds of vegetable traders begin to pack the pavements of one of Mumbai's trunk roads. Hours later, milling retail customers and piles of pungent produce bring three lanes of traffic to a halt in the morning sunshine.

Mounds of potatoes lie inches from the tyres of trucks and cars trundling past, as traders dodge commuters to carry sacks of coriander and boxes of cabbages on their shoulders through clouds of exhaust fumes and the stench of rotting produce.

Around 30 percent of India's vast fruit and vegetable production goes to waste due to a traditional supply network that uses hand-pulled wooden carts more than refrigerated freight wagons and keeps fresh produce highly regionalised.

"India cannot be seen as easy," Viney Singh, managing director of Max Hypermarkets, a six-year old local supermarket chain with a licence from European retailer Spar told Reuters.

"There are some players that have been in the retail business for more than 10 years, and til date there is no hypermarket player that has made any money."

The chaos of Mumbai's Dadar market is a universe away from Future Supply Chain's chilled 125,000 square foot (11,600 sq metre) warehouse 50 km (30 miles) from the city, where fork-lifts move crates on shelves rising up to the 17 metre-high (53-foot) roof, and 150 workers feed hundreds of metres of computer-controlled conveyor belts.

"Retail is all about filling the shelves, on time, every time," said Future Supply Chain's Singh.

"In India, the technical know-how, expertise... requires a lot of learning, it is not common knowledge here."

Ashmit (India) said...

"Let me share with you what issues Indian transportation customers in need of a reliable, modern supply chain are facing."

Just like the pak army, you attempt use proxies to make an impact.

Save your time to focus more on the poor state of affairs in pakistan instead of writing off india.

Despite the issues you pointed out, India ranks higher than pakistan in terms of "Quality of Infrastructure". India is placed at an unenviable 91, as compared to an even worse position for pakistan - 100.

Similarly, as per the latest "Logistics Performance Index" formulated by the World Bank - India was ranked 47th, above the likes of argentinia, mexico, greece, vietnam, indonesia and in your case - above pakistan. Pak registers at a lowly 110th position.

So this throws light on status-quo and the wide gap between the two countries.

But how does the future look? Don't know about pak, but pretty rosy for India given that as per the "Emerging Market Logistics Index" compiled by Transport Intelligence, India lays claim to the numero uno tag as the "most attractive logistics market for foreign investors".

Be wary of the stench that accompanies the decaying mass that you call motherland, before writing obituaries for India. In other words, as the saying goes - whose house is of glass...

Riaz Haq said...

Ashmit: "Despite the issues you pointed out, India ranks higher than pakistan in terms of "Quality of Infrastructure"."

I disagree, as do many others like me who have seen India and Pakistan first hand & compared.

Here are some of their observation:

1. Indian journalist Hindol Sengupta in the Hindu:

"Yes. Yes, you read right. The roads. I used to live in Mumbai and now I live in Delhi and, yes, I think good roads are a great, mammoth, gargantuan luxury! Face it, when did you last see a good road in India? Like a really smooth road. Drivable, wide, nicely built and long, yawning, stretching so far that you want zip on till eternity and loosen the gears and let the car fly. A road without squeeze or bump or gaping holes that pop up like blood-dripping kitchen knives in Ramsay Brothers films. When did you last see such roads? Pakistan is full of such roads. Driving on the motorway between Islamabad and Lahore, I thought of the Indian politician who ruled a notorious —, one could almost say viciously — potholed state and spoke of turning the roads so smooth that they would resemble the cheeks of Hema Malini. They remained as dented as the face of Frankenstein's monster. And here, in Pakistan, I was travelling on roads that — well, how can one now avoid this? — were as smooth as Hema Malini's cheeks! Pakistani roads are broad and smooth and almost entirely, magically, pot hole free. How do they do it; this country that is ostensibly so far behind in economic growth compared to India? But they do and one of my most delightful experiences in Pakistan has been travelling on its fabulous roads. No wonder the country is littered with SUVs — Pakistan has the roads for such cars! Even in tiny Bajaur in the North West frontier province, hard hit by the Taliban, and a little more than a frontier post, the roads were smoother than many I know in India. Even Bajaur has a higher road density than India! If there is one thing we should learn from the Pakistanis, it is how to build roads. And oh, another thing, no one throws beer bottles or trash on the highways and motorways."

2. Alaistair Scrutton of Reuters:

At times foreign reporters need to a give a nation a rest from their instinctive cynicism. I feel like that with Pakistan each time I whizz along the M2 between Islamabad and Lahore, the only motorway I know that inspires me to write.

Now, if the M2 conjures images of bland, spotless tarmac interspersed with gas stations and fast food outlets, you would be right. But this is South Asia, land of potholes, reckless driving and the occasional invasion of livestock.

And this is Pakistan, for many a "failed state." Here, blandness can inspire almost heady optimism.

Built in the 1990s at a cost of around $1 billion, the 228-mile (367-km) motorway -- which continues to Peshawar as the M1 -- is like a six-lane highway to paradise in a country that usually makes headlines for suicide bombers, army offensives and political mayhem.

Indeed, for sheer spotlessness, efficiency and emptiness there is nothing like the M2 in the rest of South Asia.

It puts paid to what's on offer in Pakistan's traditional foe and emerging economic giant India, where village culture stubbornly refuses to cede to even the most modern motorways, making them battlegrounds of rickshaws, lorries and cows."

And others including Yoginder Sikand, William Dalrymple, Tom Wright have offered similar assessments of infrastructure in Pakistan versus India.

Anonymous said...

Riaz saab, my name is Deb and I am an Indian. I am aware of the fact that Pakistan has a better road infrastructure than India and the problem with the Railway is largely due to mismanagement. In case of airlines, AI is almost in as bad shape as PIA. However Railway still carries most long distance travelers and is enormously useful in carrying bulk cargo. In this respect India has managed better.

In terms of PPP/capita India is slightly better off than Pakistan but this is an 'average'. And there is no such thing. 30-35% of the country have been able to be a part of the ongoing boom while the rest are still outside it. The smaller and richer group is way above the average while the rest is below. As a result India has a larger % of poor people than Pakistan. Hopefully with expanding industry the growth will be inclusive, albeit at a significant cost to the environment.

I agree to most of your posts and thanks for the effort. And I assure you, Indian ruling elite is not as delusional as our media :). We ARE aware of the actual situation. I wish we had adopted market friendly economic policies since the very beginning.

This is a bit off topic but I want to know your views on this. As per my understanding it's not possible for a non Muslim to be the head of the state in Pakistan. Is it correct? If yes, what's your view on this? Do you support it?

vicks1980 said...

I imagine it would be a matter of great distress to you that the Daewoo buses that you proudly speak of, are built by Tata Daewoo, which is of course owned by Tata Motors, India.

Riaz Haq said...

vicks: "Daewoo buses that you proudly speak of, are built by Tata Daewoo, which is of course owned by Tata Motors, India."

Tata owns Daewoo trucks business, not Daewoo bus co.

Daewoo trucks & buses in Pakistan are manufactured by Afzal Motors.

vicks1980 said...

Maybe you're right. In which case this arrangement would presumably be for the trucks only:
PTI Dec 19, 2005, 04.41pm IST
MUMBAI: Tata Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Motors, on Monday said it has signed a Technical Assistance Agreement (TAA) with Afzal Motors Pvt Ltd of Pakistan for assembly of its vehicles in the neighbouring country.The assembly of TDCV vehicles in Pakistan is expected to commence by the last quarter of 2006 at the newly established plant of Afzal Motors in Karachi, TDCV said in a release.The assembly plant has design capacity to produce 3,000 commercial vehicles a year on a single shift basis, it said.The assembly of TDCV vehicles in Pakistan will provide customers better products at competitive prices. It will be the first Korean truck assembly project in Pakistan, it added.

Ramesh said...

According to a NY Times December 4 2005 article --

The GQ project establishes better and faster transport networks between many major cities and ports. It provides an impetus to smoother movement of products and people within India. It enables industrial and job development in smaller towns through access to markets. It provides opportunities for farmers through better transportation of produce from the agricultural hinterland to major cities and ports for export, through lesser wastage and spoils. Finally, it drives economic growth directly through construction as well as through indirect demand for cement, steel and other construction materials.It gives an impetus to Truck transport throughout India.

I was in India in December after a gap of about 10 years and I was pleased to see the dramatic improvement in roads. To be specific, going to Vadodra from Ahmedabad International airport took us 50 minutes on the expressway which is about 110 km.

Intra city travel there is lot of congestion however. Yet there is a lot of construction activity for flyovers everywhere. Bangalore may be a little better when all is done. Mumbai has light monorail coming up but for now it is best to use the trains. New Delhi is the best of the lot because of the Metro.

Although by western standards there is much to be done still. I think it's worth to check out the progress.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a recent Boston Globe Op Ed on US-Pakistan relations:

Pakistan is a country in which social entrepreneurs and businesses fill urgent public needs. As one Pakistani told us, “We are a culture of problem solvers, and we are a country of entrepreneurs.’’ Despite violence, corruption, weak governance, and many social challenges, this country of more than 180 million has moved forward in growing its economy. Many Pakistanis are investing in their own and their country’s future - small business owners, industrialists, social entrepreneurs, and investors - under deeply challenging circumstances and not without risk.

In a country where public services are in shambles, private-sector innovations are abundant - in agriculture, education, health, social services delivery, and IT. We met middle-class families running schools, philanthropists building universities and hospitals, investors increasing their investment inside Pakistan, and CEOs whose businesses are thriving. Nestle has one of its largest dairy production facilities in the world based in Pakistan. And as Pepsi notes, the second-largest consumer of Mountain Dew in the world after the United States is Pakistan.

The US Chamber of Commerce and the Pakistan Business Council could promote dialogue, explore business ventures, and identify opportunities for mutually profitable market development. Our networks of entrepreneurs and businesses can forge relationships with counterpart networks in Pakistan to find opportunities for collaboration and joint investment, information exchange, and mentoring.

Another area that offers great potential is the opportunity to support Pakistanis in deepening their ongoing democratic transition. Parliamentary elections tentatively set for next year offer an opportunity for Pakistan to hold the second legitimate democratic elections in a row for the first time since the country was founded in 1947. The opportunity for citizen engagement and cooperation comes as US and Pakistani civil society organizations work together to address a wide range of challenges in Pakistan, including good governance, religious pluralism, and women’s rights.

Pakistan’s media - increasingly free and vocal – are interested in exchanging views with American counterparts on how to better educate the public and hold those in power accountable.

For the past two years, the United States has engaged the Pakistani government in several rounds of a strategic dialogue, and tripled the funding for non-military assistance to Pakistan. But because of the Afghanistan war and the threats posed by Al Qaeda and its affiliates, the US government also adopted a more aggressive military strategy in Pakistan, including the controversial drone strikes.

The efforts to move beyond a transactional relationship with Pakistan fell short, however, not just because of what the governments did or did not do. They fell short because governments are constrained in what they can achieve given how they view the threats posed to their citizens.

Without greater citizen involvement to deepen our ties, the United States and Pakistan will remain trapped in mutual mistrust.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Railway Gazette report on privatization of Pakistan Railway (PR):

Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani inaugurated the first privately-managed Business Express service between Lahore and Karachi on February 3.

The train is operated under an agreement between Pakistan Railways and Four Brothers International, which sells the premium-priced tickets aimed at business travellers and provides the onboard services including bedding, catering and entertainment in return for 14% of the revenue.

Four Brothers is investing Rs225m in the venture, refurbishing an initial nine air-conditioned coaches and providing dedicated booking offices and passenger lounges. PR expects to earn Rs1·5bn a year from operating the service.

The Prime Minster told local media the venture would ‘not only introduce the private business to passenger operations on the rails for the very first time but also provide Pakistan Railways with an insight into the dynamics of the private sector’, and thus be instrumental in reviving the troubled rail system.

PR is planning to outsource management of further passenger trains, and the government hopes private companies will import locomotives and wagons to launch their own freight services.

At the end of January PR reinstated Karachi – Lahore freight services which had been suspended since August owing to an acute shortage of operational locomotives and funds to purchase fuel. Karachi – Faisalabad parcels services have also been reinstated. Last month PR was hoping to operate 10 freight trains a day, subject to having 15 serviceable locomotives.

On February 10 the cabinet gave the go-ahead for a long-discussed order for 75 new locomotives, approving a US$105m agreement with Dongfang Electric Corp which was signed in December 2008 but became mired in procurement policy disputes between the government and PR. The deal is to be funded by China, with PR paying in instalments.

Riaz Haq said...

Pak threat to Indian science

Hindustan Times

Pakistan may soon join China in giving India serious competition in science. “Science is a lucrative profession in Pakistan. It has tripled the salaries of its scientists in the last few years.” says Prof C.N.R. Rao, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Advisory Council.

In a presentation to the Prime Minister, Rao has asked for a separate salary mechanism for scientists. The present pay structure, he says, is such that “no young technical person worth his salt would want to work for the Government or public sector”.

He adds, “You needn’t give scientists private sector salaries, but you could make their lives better, by say, giving them a free house.”

Giving his own example, he says, “I have been getting a secretary’s salary for the last 35 years. But I have earned enough through various awards.

But I can raise a voice for those who aren’t getting their due.” Last year, Rao won the prestigious Dan David Award, from which he created a scholarship fund. So far, he has donated Rs 50 lakh for scholarship purposes.

The crisis gripping Indian science seems to be hydra-headed. “None of our institutes of higher learning are comparable with Harvard or Berkeley,” points out Rao. The IITs, he says, need to improve their performance: a faculty of 350 produces only about 50 PhD scholars a year. “That’s one PhD per 5-6 faculty members,” says the anguished Professor.

Rao fears that India’s contribution to world science would plummet to 1-1.5 per cent if we don’t act fast. At present, India’s contribution is less than three per cent. China’s is 12 per cent.

“We should not be at the bottom of the pile. When I started off in the field of scientific research at 17-and-a-half, I had thought that India would go on to become a top science country. But now, 55 years later, only a few individuals have made it to the top grade,” he laments.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Railway to revamp 96 locomotives, reports The News:

Pakistan Railway Advisory & Consultancy Services (PRACS), a subsidiary of Pakistan Railways would revamp 96 locomotives from the funds allocated by the federal government.

Credible sources informed ‘The News’ here Wednesday that the federal government has recently announced to provide funds worth Rs6.4 billion for this purpose.

The main objective of government funding relates to improving the condition of Pakistan Railways, which has collapsed due to severe financial crunch for the last one year. The government had couple of months ago also released Rs2.24 billion to the Pakistan Railways for clearance of employees’ salaries and purchase of diesel, which went short, halting operation of number of passenger trains. However, the operation of suspended trains has revived from main stations after government injected much needed funding into the department. Now the government is lending loan to Pakistan Railways for rehabilitation of locomotives.

In order to revive the condition of Pakistan Railways, some officials last year had also recommended the concerned high authorities for complete suspension of passenger trains for one year and operating only freight trains.

PRACS Secretary Zafar Zaman Ranjha while commenting on the report agreed that the releasing process of funds by government is in final stages. As soon as PRACS receives funding, work on rehabilitation of old and faulty locomotives would be initiated. In all PRACS would rehabilitate 96 locomotives. He agreed to a question that at present no freight train is operating in any station of the country. “However, we are laying emphasis to run 80 per cent freight trains after refurbishing 96 locomotives,” he added.

However, he told that 85 per cent funds would be spent on refurbishing work. The entire work would be completed before the end of the current year, the secretary assured. To a question, he agreed to the claims of several officials that the condition of Pakistan Railways is improving. Besides receiving funds, related minister and other concerned quarters taking other major steps for reviving Pakistan Railways, which are underway.

Riaz Haq said...

German tuck maker MAN setting up manufacturing in Pakistan, according to Express Tribune:

To explore new business avenues in the agricultural sector, German farm minister will arrive in Pakistan in a couple of months while a German auto giant is making huge investment by establishing a manufacturing plant in Pakistan, says German Embassy’s Commercial Section Head Samy Saddi.

Speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Wednesday, Saddi said German auto giant MAN is putting up a truck and bus manufacturing plant which would not only create a large number of job opportunities but would also send positive signal to investors in other developed countries.

The diplomat said other German companies were also planning to make investment in alternative energy to help Pakistan overcome the energy crisis.

Saddi spoke about measures being taken by the German government to strengthen bilateral economic relations and said the upcoming visit of agricultural minister was very much part of these efforts.

LCCI President Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said continuous fall in bilateral trade called for appropriate sector-specific, result-oriented measures by both sides as the existing trade volume of $1.9 billion did not correspond with the great potential the two countries had.

Riaz Haq said...

Private airline Bhoja resumes service in Pakistan, reports Khaleej Times:

Private carrier, Bhoja Air, a defaulter in the past, will start domestic flights from Monday after it held a test flight here on Saturday.

Bhoja airline was a defaulter of more than Rs6.9 million of the Civil Aviation Authority but it was allowed to resume operations by the Ministry of Defence.

Due to financial difficulties, the Bhoja Air suspended its operations in 2001 although its Airline Licence, issued by the CAA, remained valid and it maintained a fully functional headquarter office in Karachi and an operations and ramp office at the Karachi airport. However, the Bhoja Air announced in November 2011, that it plans to restart operations in 2012. Bhoja Air’s founder Chairman M. Farouk Omar Bhoja has installed a new management which includes the former managing director of Shaheen Air, M. Arshad Jalil, as the airline’s Managing Director.

Initially the airline has acquired two Boeing 737-400 on lease for scheduled flights on domestic sectors of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Multan and Sukkur.

Later the carrier with the induction of few more planes mostly on lease will launch operations to Dubai and beyond.

Bhoja will become fourth airlines to operate in Pakistan. The others are, Pakistan International Airlines, Shaheen Air and airblue. Another airline given permission to start commercial flights Indus Air has yet to launch its operation.

Riaz Haq said...

Afghanistan to build railroad, reports AP:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- More than a century ago, fearing that his country might be swallowed up in the Great Game rivalry between the British empire to the east and the Russian army to the north, an Afghan king made a radical decision: He banned railroads.

That edict effectively kept out foreign troops for a number of years. But it also left the Afghan economy, once a wealthy crossroads of the ancient Silk Road trading routes, largely cut off from the world at a time when trains were the engines of development.

Now, Afghanistan has just opened its first major railroad and is planning a half dozen more. The government is also inviting other countries to build tracks, part of plans for a "New Silk Route" that the U.S. hopes will help stabilize the region by promoting trading links.

China, Iran, Pakistan and India all have government or corporate plans for separate railroad projects across Afghanistan. Turkmenistan is completing its own plans for another line. And Uzbekistan has already built the first major rail link, a 47-mile line from the border town of Hairatan to Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan's north.

One reason so many countries are helping Afghanistan belatedly join the rail age: They need trains if their companies hope to export the country's vast, untapped mineral wealth, estimated by U.S. surveys at nearly $1 trillion.

Both the railway projects and the prospects for future mining wealth will depend largely on whether the country can keep violence from escalating once the international military force withdraws most of its troops by the end of 2014. For investors, it's a question of whether the increased commerce is worth the risk and effort.
Soviet occupiers abandoned a few rail projects in the 1980s, and later years of civil war made such construction impossible.

Now, the Afghan government, seeking to lift the country out of poverty, is trying to catch up to its neighbors by building links to Central Asia's fairly well-developed rail networks.

The plan is to build a series of short, cross-border tracks to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Iran. The tracks would connect to each other inside the country's north by railways built by Iran from the west and China from the east.

"We would be able to import and export to Russia, Turkey, and even European countries," says Noor Gul Mangal, Afghanistan's deputy public works minister. Opening new transport gateways would also reduce Afghanistan's dependence on neighboring Pakistan as its only link to sea ports.

Only one line is finished and several of the rest are delayed or face funding problems. But already, the prospect of restoring Afghanistan's status as the crossroads for goods traveling from India, China and Europe has kindled enthusiasm.

Instead of silk, spices and tea, the New Silk Route would carry washing machines from India, heavy machinery from Europe and T-shirts from Pakistan over interconnecting railroads that are faster than container ships and cheaper than air freight.

"Afghanistan is the key. It's the hub," Starr says.

It can all sound like a far-fetched dream for Afghanistan, with Taliban violence spiraling and international troops preparing to withdraw from the decade-long war. If President Hamid Karzai's government cannot prevent the country from plunging further into civil war, the mining companies may cut their losses. In which case more railroad projects will gather dust.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Khaleej Times story on how Emirates is eating PIA's lunch:

DUBAI -- Emirates, one of the world’s fastest growing airlines, has strengthened its commitment to Pakistan by announcing the addition of a fifth daily flight to and from the city of Karachi. Effective August 1, 2012, the airline will be operating to Jinnah International Airport in Karachi five times a day.

This move reinforces Emirates’ presence in the Pakistani landscape and provides passengers with more flexibility and options when travelling to the country’s commercial hub.

“This is very exciting news for us as Karachi was the inaugural destination of Emirates when the airline began operations in 1985,” said Badr Abbas, Vice President Pakistan & Afghanistan, commenting on the development.

“Today we are proud to have announced a fifth daily flight to Karachi in a move to better serve our Pakistani passengers and strengthen the historic relationship between Pakistan and UAE. We hope to continue on this path by further expanding our services in Pakistan and are grateful to all the relevant government and aviation authorities for making this possible,” he added.

Karachi is known as the financial capital of Pakistan and the additional flight will not only further leisure and business travel but also boost economic activity by providing increased cargo capacity for popular Pakistani exports to many destinations on Emirates’ global network.

The additional frequency will be operated by a Boeing 777-300ER in a two-class configuration.

In the past six months, Emirates has experienced robust growth and increased its presence in Northern Pakistan by starting additional flights to Peshawar, Lahore and Islamabad. Starting August, Emirates will be operating 54 weekly flights to and from four cities in Pakistan - Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar - of which two frequencies are subject to Government approval.

Rishi said...

I guess u have not been to India recently. Ever been to bangalore. ever travelled in delhu metro. Forget ever in mumbai- pune expressway. Or the bangalore - mysore express corridor. You nitpick on all the bad things about India and conveniently ignore the strides India has made in recent years. With all its poverty its a global powerhouse, name a single Pak automobile comp which exports automobiles. In india you got mahindra, tata and the list goes on. India manufactures LocomotiveS AND EXPORTS THEM, PAKISTAN IS IN DIRE STRAITS. william darylymple should have seen IGI airport and the metro. Pakistan lacks in indegenisation in all areas where India is far ahead.

Deepak said...

you said,"Today, 90% of India's passenger traffic and 65% of its freight operations use road transportation, according to World Bank."

In 2010 Indian Railway carried some 22 Million passengers/day or 8 Billion/annually compared to just 1.64 Billion/annually for China, which says Indian Railway is widely used for transportation system in the world.

You said "And others including Yoginder Sikand, William Dalrymple, Tom Wright have offered similar assessments of infrastructure in Pakistan versus India."

In 1998 Indian government started massive road modernization scheme of 45,000km new roads most notable are Golden Quadrilateral and NS-EW Highway accounting 13,000km of Expressway quality highway. From this year (2012) onward 10% of GDP will be invested in Infrastructure development accounting to $1 Trillion in next 5 yrs which was increased from about 6.5% of GDP in 2007.

M-2 Motorway is good but doesn't define whole Pakistan Even Anatol Lieven has mentioned Super highway between Karachi and Hyderabad as 2-lane pothole. Pakistan lags behind in other infrastructure. Pakistan don't have functional sub-urban Rail system like India in any city (Karachi circular railways was abandoned) and widespread use of AC buses for Public transport in big cities. Metro Rail construction is going on in 10 cities in India and Mumbai Monorail is opening 4-5 months and other 10 cities are gearing up for Monorail and Metro Rails.

Now, India is gearing up for metro rail in 20 cities and Monorail in 12 cities, project unigauge to convert all tracks to Broad gauge except heritage routes,dozens of new Mountain Rail projects, 6000km new route electrification in next 5 yrs, High Speed Rail on 8 routes, DFC on 6 routes. Even with many demerits Indian Railways is faring far better than Pakistan Railways who abandoned Karachi Circular Railways, abandoned electrified route to be stolen, abandoned most of the metre gauge tracks, Lahore Metro Project is getting delayed and electrified line from Lahore-Khanewal was abandoned.

Anonymous said...

These days, Indian policymakers are debating how to create a vast new food entitlement program. There is talk of poor households struggling to cope with high food prices and malnourishment among their children.

What you don’t hear much about, however, is the most tragic and outrageous consequence of India’s failure to feed its people adequately: starvation deaths.

India is a nation that prides itself on having been self-sufficient in food production for decades and having leaped forward economically over the past 20 years. So it isn’t surprising that public officials and even many in the media are reluctant to face up to the painful reality that hunger persists in 2012. Starvation doesn’t fit neatly into the story of a “shining” India.

But India is also a nation with about 360 million people living under the official poverty line – more than any other country – and starvation is all too real.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Post & Parcel report on modernization of Pakistan Post:

US company Escher Group has won a contract to provide its point-of-service software for post offices in Pakistan.

The Boston-based firm said today it has secured the deal with Islamabad-based information and communications technology firm TelcoNet, a contractor for Pakistan Post.

The deal will mean initially trialling Escher’s RiposteEssential retail point-of-sale system in a number of branches, before potentially rolling the system out to the network of 13,000 Pakistan Post branches.

Escher said centralising Pakistan Post’s financial services would mean customers being able to access them easily and more conveniently.

The project is the first part of an “ambitious” effort by Pakistan Post to improve its entire network and automate a full range of services including mail, retail services and payment processes.

Escher said its RiposteEssential system is now in use in 32 countries worldwide.

The Riposte system is described by its producer as “middleware”, allowing different applications operating on different computers to communicate with each other and manage data centrally. RiposteEssential serves the mail and courier markets, linking postal facilities with utilities, financial services companies, banks and governments.

Liam Church, Escher’s chief executive, said the deal with TelcoNet was a significant development for his company in Asia.

“Pakistan Post is one of the largest postal operators in the region and Escher is looking forward to assisting the Post in its modernisation strategy,” he said.

Irfan Ali, the CEO at TelcoNet, said: “This partnership with Escher is testament to our commitment to work with world-leading technology providers that provide value-added solutions to clients such as Pakistan Post.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a David Brooks' NY Times column on why political participation is important for idealistic youth:

Often they are bursting with enthusiasm for some social entrepreneurship project: making a cheap water-purification system, starting a company that will empower Rwandan women by selling their crafts in boutiques around the world.

These people are refreshingly uncynical. Their hip service ethos is setting the moral tone for the age. Idealistic and uplifting, their worldview is spread by enlightened advertising campaigns, from Bennetton years ago to everything Apple has ever done.

It’s hard not to feel inspired by all these idealists, but their service religion does have some shortcomings. In the first place, many of these social entrepreneurs think they can evade politics. They have little faith in the political process and believe that real change happens on the ground beneath it.

That’s a delusion. You can cram all the nongovernmental organizations you want into a country, but if there is no rule of law and if the ruling class is predatory then your achievements won’t add up to much.

Furthermore, important issues always spark disagreement. Unless there is a healthy political process to resolve disputes, the ensuing hatred and conflict will destroy everything the altruists are trying to build.

There’s little social progress without political progress. Unfortunately, many of today’s young activists are really good at thinking locally and globally, but not as good at thinking nationally and regionally.

Second, the prevailing service religion underestimates the problem of disorder. Many of the activists talk as if the world can be healed if we could only insert more care, compassion and resources into it.

History is not kind to this assumption. Most poverty and suffering — whether in a country, a family or a person — flows from disorganization. A stable social order is an artificial accomplishment, the result of an accumulation of habits, hectoring, moral stricture and physical coercion. Once order is dissolved, it takes hard measures to restore it.

Yet one rarely hears social entrepreneurs talk about professional policing, honest courts or strict standards of behavior; it’s more uplifting to talk about microloans and sustainable agriculture.

In short, there’s only so much good you can do unless you are willing to confront corruption, venality and disorder head-on. So if I could, presumptuously, recommend a reading list to help these activists fill in the gaps in the prevailing service ethos, I’d start with the novels of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, or at least the movies based on them.

The noir heroes like Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” served as models for a generation of Americans, and they put the focus squarely on venality, corruption and disorder and how you should behave in the face of it.

A noir hero is a moral realist. He assumes that everybody is dappled with virtue and vice, especially himself. He makes no social-class distinction and only provisional moral distinctions between the private eyes like himself and the criminals he pursues. The assumption in a Hammett book is that the good guy has a spotty past, does spotty things and that the private eye and the criminal are two sides to the same personality.

He (or she — the women in these stories follow the same code) adopts a layered personality. He hardens himself on the outside in order to protect whatever is left of the finer self within.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on Pakistan ordering aircraft inspection after a disaster near Islamabad:

The Pakistani government mandated Sunday that all airplanes operated by private airlines must undergo a new inspection to determine whether they are safe to fly, days after a crash near the capital killed 127 people.

The Bhoja Air crash Friday was the second in Pakistan in less than two years involving a private Pakistani airline. In both cases, the planes went down in bad weather as they approached the main airport in Islamabad.

The crashes have raised concerns about the safety of aviation in a country saddled by economic problems.

A passenger jet operated by a third private airline, Shaheen Air, faced potential disaster Sunday when its left tire burst as it touched down, said a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, Pervez George. The pilot applied the emergency break, causing the landing gear to buckle and the left wing to scrape along the ground as the plane came to a halt. None of the more than 170 passengers was injured, Mr. George.

The planes operated by private airlines will be inspected one by one, and any aircraft that fail will be grounded, Pakistani Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar told state TV. Planes currently in operation will be allowed to fly as they await inspection, he said.

The largest airline in the country is state-run Pakistan International Airlines, which has suffered from serious operational and financial problems. Pakistan also has a handful of private airlines that fly both domestic and international routes.

The airline involved in Friday's crash, Bhoja Air, only recently received a permit and began flying last month after it lost its license in 2001 because of financial difficulties.

It's still unclear what caused the Boeing 737-200 to crash in wheat farms about five kilometers from Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Friday evening. It was arriving from the southern city of Karachi.

The violent storm that was lashing Islamabad when the plane went down has led some experts to speculate that "wind shear," sudden changes in wind speed or direction that can lift or smash an aircraft into the ground during landing, may have been a factor.

Some in the media and the government have suggested that the age of the aircraft may have been a factor. An industry website indicated the jet was 32 years old, not especially old for an aircraft, according to experts. Also, age by itself is rarely an important factor in crashes, they said.

Pakistan has barred the head of the airline, Farooq Bhoja, from leaving the country and has launched a criminal investigation into the crash, alongside the probe being conducted by aviation authorities.

Bhoja Air has declined to comment and said it would discuss the case after the investigation was complete.

The last major plane crash in the country—and Pakistan's worst—occurred in July 2010, when an Airbus A321 aircraft operated by domestic carrier Airblue crashed into the hills overlooking Islamabad, killing all 152 people aboard. A government investigation blamed the pilot for veering off course in stormy weather.

Dozens of mourners walked through the streets of Karachi on Sunday, carrying coffins holding victims of the Friday crash. One distraught young boy was comforted by a relative as he stood over his brother's wooden coffin, which was draped in a green cloth covered in Islamic prayers. Other mourners stopped to pray in the street during the funeral procession.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on heavy losses at Pak PSUs:

Five public sector enterprises are either operating without a governing board, or are run by unskilled persons. In the latter case, retired or serving bureaucrats, or unqualified but politically well-connected individuals, have been appointed to run these enterprises. According to sources, these entities have collectively caused Rs393 billion in losses to the national exchequer during four years of the Pakistan Peoples Party government.

These entities include Pak­istan Railways (PR), Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco), and the National Highway Authority (NHA).

Furthermore, losses incurred by Pepco due to subsidies– estimated at Rs1.2 trillion by the finance ministry – are not included in this assessment.
National Highway Authority

The entity recorded Rs150 billion in losses during the four years under review – the highest among the five. When the PPP took over the government, the NHA recorded annual losses of Rs30 billion. These surged to Rs33.5 billion in 2008, Rs35.3 billion in 2009, Rs44.4 billion in 2010 and Rs36.5 billion in the last fiscal year, according to the official report.

Pakistan International Airlines

The national flag-carrier’s accumulative financial losses in three years and nine months stood at Rs81 billion. In 2007, the entity’s annual losses had been registered at Rs13.4 billion. These surged to Rs36.1 billion in 2008, Rs4.9 billion in 2009, Rs20.8 billion in 2010 and Rs 19.3 billion losses in nine months of last year.

Pakistan Steel Mills

From 2009 to 2011, PSM’s accumulated losses stood at Rs49.5 billion. The country’s largest industrial unit was in profit up to 2008, but political appointments have led to the near collapse of the behemoth. In 2009, it suffered Rs26.5 billion in losses; the figure came down to Rs11.5 billion in 2010, and was ‘sustained’ at this level in 2011.

Pakistan Railways

PR incurred Rs96 billion in losses during the reviewed period. Before the government took over, its annual losses stood at Rs15.2 billion. This figure ballooned to Rs16.9 billion in 2008, Rs23 billion in 2009, Rs25 billion in 2010 and Rs31.1 billion during the last fiscal year. The government has only recently constituted a board of directors for the entity.


Passco recorded Rs34.6 billion in losses during the reviewed period. During the last year of the Musharraf government, Passco suffered Rs2.5 billion losses. The figure swelled to Rs3.4 billion in 2008, Rs3.3 billion in 2009, Rs 13.8 billion in 2010 and Rs14.1 billion in 2011..

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC's Soutik Biswas on Indian airlines' troubles:

On Thursday, Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told the parliament that the airlines are expected to report a combined loss of nearly $2bn for the last financial year. Independent analysts peg last fiscal's losses at $2.5bn.

All airlines - there are six main operators - barring budget carrier Indigo are in the red and further losses are expected in 2011-12, he said.

India's biggest airlines - the private Jet and the the national carrier Air India - are struggling.

Private airline Kingfisher has shut down overseas operations, pruned domestic flights, downsized and is desperately hunting for funds. Things are so bad that the government is mulling a proposal to allow foreign airlines to buy stakes in India's airlines to help revive them. But this is not expected to happen soon.

What is wrong with one of the world's fastest growing aviation markets? Aviation and telecoms are held up as leading examples of industries which have bloomed after the unshackling of India's economy.
Serious challenges

But in less than eight years the boom is beginning to look like a bust. What went wrong?

Total losses since 2004 are estimated to be around $8bn, and the airlines are groaning under accumulated debts of up to $18bn, according to independent analysts.

Most believe the industry has been hit by steep fuel prices, punishing taxes, tough competition and the general economic slowdown. Airport charges are also on the upswing - Delhi airport has already seen a fat rise and Calcutta, Chennai and Mumbai are expected to follow suit - and flying is going to become more expensive.

Consider aviation fuel, which comprises more than half of the operating cost of an airline.

In early March, global aviation analyst Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa) calculated that a kilolitre of aviation fuel cost 67,000 rupees ($1,247) in Mumbai, compared to 44,000 rupees ($819) in Dubai and 43,400 rupees ($808) in Singapore. India imports the bulk of its oil, so with the rupee falling, it is paying more for it. On top of that, oil is also also heavily taxed domestically.

The situation is not likely to improve in the near future unless oil prices drop, the rupee strengthens and taxes are cut. "There are serious fiscal challenges linked to the slowing economy and punitive taxes, but there are equally serious structural issues with industry and the infrastructure," Kapil Kaul, chief of Capa India told me.
India has more than 400 aircraft - flying on both domestic and international routes - and some 3,500 pilots. More than 60 million Indians flew domestically in 2011, and some 37 million flew internationally. Passenger traffic grew by a healthy 17% last year, though it has slowed down a bit since.

On the face of it, the industry should be booming. Instead, it seems to have become a victim of a slowing economy, shoddy fiscal management, punitive taxes, poor management and the hubris of the operators.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's Indus Airline to buy Russian passenger jets, reports RIA Novosti:

Pakistan’s Air Indus has shown an interest in buying eight Sukhoi Superjet 100 airplanes, the manufacturer said on Wednesday.

“The client is interested in purchasing eight new SSJ-100 planes, and get three of them in 2013,” Sukhoi Civil Aircraft’s Senior Vice President Igor Syrtsov said.

An SSJ-100 carried out two demonstration flights in the Indonesian capital.

United Aircraft Corporation said in February Russia will export 10 SSJ-100 airplanes in 2012. The planes will be delivered to Mexico, Indonesia, and Laos in the second half of the year.

So far, only one plane has been exported and that was to Armenia.

Another 10 SSJ 100s will be delivered to domestic airlines Aeroflot and Armavia.

The Superjet 100 is a medium-haul passenger aircraft developed by Sukhoi in cooperation with U.S. and European aviation corporations, including Boeing, Snecma, Thales, Messier Dowty, Liebherr Aerospace and Honeywell.

The aircraft is capable of carrying up to 100 passengers for up to 4,500 kilometers.

In early February SSJ 100 received the Type Certificate from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Sukhoi has received over 200 firm orders for Superjet 100 airliners so far.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation newspaper report on heavy losses at state-owned enterprises in Pakistan being equal defense allocation:

The annual losses of only three public enterprises namely Railways, PIA and Pakistan Steel Mills aggregate to a total amount equivalent to funds allocated for defence of Pakistan, financial experts said.

They suggested the government that all public enterprises should be vested with financial autonomy with no burden of their losses on the federal budget of Pakistan. This will off-load around Rs625 billion losses which at present, the budget is absorbing, they added.

They said that provincial governments were given substantial amounts under the 7th NFC Award. In fact, a sum of Rs1.2 billion was projected for distribution in the Federal budget 2011-12.

“The provinces should be logistically helped in excellent fiscal management. They must raise new taxes within their provinces and must respond to the golden rule of public finance namely; generating revenue surplus to meet their ADP needs without asking federal government for any allocation of grant or assistance,” stated Dr Khawaja Amjad Saeed, noted economist and professor emeritus. Talking to The Nation on the upcoming budget, he said that good governance should be ruthlessly implemented and all unethical practices should be eradicated in all walks of life, irrespective of the status of the persons. Government employees and pensioners may be given appropriate rise in their emoluments to protect their wage basket against inflationary impact, he added.

He observed that projection for the employment generating activities may also be released. Instead of executing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), the role may be redefined by switching to Productivity Sharing Agreements (PSAs) so that the raise in salaries and wages of the workers is self-financing and non-inflationary.

Khawaja Amjad Saeed, who is the founder principal of Hailey College of Banking & Finance, said that a serious note should be taken by the government and regulatory agencies for restructuring financial sector of Pakistan by substantially reducing non-performing loans. These ought to be restricted to 4pc of loan portfolio to ensure a sound financial structure.

The role of Professional Accountants in general and that of Cost and Management Accountants in particular should be duly recognised and they should be associated in strengthening frontiers of Financial Management in Pakistan. Appropriate legal and other logistically supported actions be undertaken in this respect.

Economic strategy with a breakthrough approach in agriculture, industry (with special emphasis on mineral development) and services sector be developed for ensuring prosperity across the board in Pakistan through poverty alleviation, promotion of employment opportunities, ensuring high standard of living and going beyond meeting the basic needs of common man....

Riaz Haq said...

US to assist in reviving Pakistan Rail system, reports Business Recorder:

Consul General William Martin, on behalf of the US Trade and Development Agency, along with Captain Haleem Siddiqui of PMS inked the agreement that will enable the private sector company to help Pakistan's rail system handle the growing volume of cargo between Lahore and Karachi.

The initiative is central to improving the capacity of one of Pakistan's most important trade corridors and promoting continued economic growth.

To remedy a shortage of properly maintained locomotives, Pakistan Railway has agreed to allow PMS to deploy and operate a fleet of locomotives using PR's existing rolling stock and railway infrastructure.

The assistance will also provide PMS with an assessment of future freight volumes, financing requirements for the project, and other technical assistance.

Speaking on the occasion, CG Martin said that the "United States remains committed to partnering with the Pakistani transportation sector," because of its importance in supporting economic growth in the country, while also "increasing and strengthening US-Pakistani commercial ties." The US Trade and Development Agency aims to create sustainable infrastructure and economic growth in partner countries.

Brian McCleary, Commercial Counsellor, US Embassy Islamabad, and Aasim Siddiqui, MD, Marine Group of Companies, were also present on the occasion

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News story on steps toward rail privatization in Pakistan:

As many as six factories of Pakistan Railways (PR), namely Locomotive Factory Risalpur, Carriage Factory Islamabad, and four Concrete Sleeper Factories in Kohat, Khanewal, Sukkur and Kotri, are being corporatised for eventual privatisation subject to approval of the government, says the latest Economic Survey.

It said an effective railway system of the country facilitates commerce and trade, reduces transportation cost and promotes rural development and national integration. Pakistan Railways has entered into the Public-Private Partnership business in operating passenger trains, rehabilitation of locomotives and management operation of terminal facilities including dry ports.

The Ministry of Railways has also adopted a “Track Access Policy” for private sector participation to operate freight and passenger trains on Pakistan Railways infrastructure. The Ministry of Railways is also in process of allowing private sector to operate on Pakistan Railways network under Public Private Partnership framework.

The Ministry has also created a “Real Estate Development and Marketing Company” as subsidiary of Ministry of Railways. The company will manage to commercialise the surplus lands of Pakistan Railways in order to overcome its financial challenges, says the survey Restructuring of Pakistan Railways. The Cabinet Committee of Restructuring (CCOR) has approved a restructuring framework for Pakistan Railways. New Board of Directors of PR has been constituted by including academia, management professionals, rail experts and executive functionaries. The process for recruitment of a professional chief executive officer and other technocrats is being undertaken.

Repair of locomotives has been given a priority for restoration of railway services and freight operations are also being prioritised for revenue generation. Financial viability is being ensured through improving revenue and support by GOP. It has been decided that adjustment of fares and freight pricing will be determined according to market conditions and cost of doing business. An asset management company is being established for optimum utilisation of PR’s assets.

After the PPP formed government in 2008, the freight and passenger service has suffered massive set-backs, as indicated by the survey: 74.9 million persons travelled by Pakistan Railways in 2009-2010, but it came down drastically to 64.9 million in 2010-2011, while from July 2011 to February this year, just 25 million availed this mode of transport so far.

The situation of the freight is also alarmingly grim, as freight carried 5.8 million tons in 2009-2010, while in 2010-2011, it was reduced by more than half to 2.6 million tons, whereas till February this year, the Railways freight service recorded a paltry 0.9 million tons.

During the last financial year, 16 kms of track was rehabilitated on the Pakistan Railways network besides doubling of more than 15 kms of track.

Construction of D Class railway station at new Multan city was carried out at a cost of Rs39.8 million which has facilitated the local population to a large extent. Renovation of Khudian Khas, Usmanwala, Raiwind and Kanganpur railway stations was carried out at a cost of Rs24.0 million to improve facilities for the passengers, said the survey.

Signalling system of four railway stations damaged during the riots of 2007 was rehabilitated during the period...

Riaz Haq said...

Here's World Bank economist's assessment of Pak competitiveness, according to The News:

Pakistan needs to improve its competitiveness for rapid industrialisation, which offers it a range of potential benefits, including more jobs creation, tax revenues and economic growth, said Dan Biller, World Bank’s lead economist on South Asia Region for Sustainable Development.

Addressing businessmen in Lahore, he said that the GDP growth of Pakistan in 2011 was only 24 percent, while China grew at 9.2 percent, India 7.8 percent, Sri Lanka at eight percent, Indonesia 6.4 percent and Malaysia 5.2 percent.

Among all these countries, Pakistan has the largest agricultural share of GDP and smallest industrial share, he said.

Biller said that lower industrialisation in Pakistan against other regional countries is due to its lower competitiveness, adding that Pakistan ranks poorly on the Global Competitive Index of the World Economic Forum. Pakistan’s institutions are weak, scoring 3.4 points out of 10, he said, adding that Malaysia score 5.2 points, China 4.3 points, India 3.8 points, Indonesia 3.8 points and Sri Lanka scored 4.2 points on quality of institutions.

Biller said that Pakistan’s score in infrastructure was dismal 2.8 points, while Malaysia scored 5.5, China 4.3, India 3.6, Indonesia 3.8 and Sri Lanka scored 4.1 points.

Similarly, he said, Pakistan’s score was the lowest among these countries in macroeconomic stability, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency and labour market efficiency. Only in the market size, Pakistan had a better score than Sri Lanka, he added.

He also said that Pakistan has the most expensive and least-efficient port systems in the region, adding that the handling charges at the Karachi Port Trust are $110 per ton. India charges $80 per ton, Sri Lanka $150 per ton and Hong Kong charged $140 per ton. Ship charges of 2,800 tons are $30,000 at KPT, $5,500 in Sri Lanka, $6,000 in Hong Kong and $25,000 in the Indian port.

He said Pakistan handles 55 containers per hour, Sri Lanka 70 per hour, Hong Kong 100 per hour and India 65 per hour. The Customs authorities in Pakistan examine 10 percent containers physically; Sri Lanka and Hong Kong less than five percent, while physical examination of containers in India is also high, but less than 100 percent, he said, adding that Pakistani ports lack water depth, which is 10.5 feet at KPT, 13 feet in Sri Lanka, 14 feet in Hong Kong and 12 feet in Indian ports.

The World Bank economist said that Pakistan provides relatively low access to services that impeded foreign investment. Pakistan has two fixed telephone lines per 100 people against 22 in China, 2.9 in India, 17.2 in Sri Lanka, 15.8 in Indonesia and 16.1 in Malaysia.

Around 99.4 percent of the population in China has access to electricity; it is 66.3 percent in India, 76.6 percent in Sri Lanka, 62.4 percent in Pakistan, 64.5 percent in Indonesia and 99.4 percent in Malaysia, he added.

The roads and power generation are number one infrastructure concern for the businesses worldwide, Biller said, and advised Pakistan to reduce the transport cost that is critical to competitiveness.

In addition, the state should ensure safe mobility and enhance regional connectivity. Pakistan’s foreign market access potential is at least 4.5 times higher than the United States, he said, adding that its current market access is only 4-9 percent of the United States.

Pakistan’s market share in total global exports is less than half percent and remained stagnant since 2000. India, on the other hand, increased its global export share from 0.6 percent in 2000 to 1.5 percent in 2010, he added.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation report on PIA's acquisition of new aircraft:

PIA management is going to purchase nine new planes to resume its certain routes like Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles in the US to put PIA on the path of progress while unlike past the procurement process will be monitored by Transparency International (TI) a Germany based watchdog , said well informed sources in the national flag carrier on Friday.

Sources disclosed that newly appointed Chairman PIA, Rao Qamar Suleman has himself decided to take TI on board to maintain maximum transparency in the procurement process.

New planes scheduled to be purchased included five B-737-800, two B-777-LR and two Jumbo planes. Sources claimed that Jumbo planes would be used for Haj purpose while B-777 for long haul flights like Huston, Chicago and Los Angeles while B-737-800 for other routes.

A well informed officer of PIA seeking anonymity said that MD PIA was also keen in revamping of routes like Nairobi, Johannesburg, Glasgow and Bangkok etc.

He said that Rao Qamar was in negotiations with American Transport Security Administration (TSA) to get permission for direct flight from Pakistan to US destinations. He said Rao has also successfully exempted from another security check imposed by the United States on PIA flights operating between the two countries at Manchester.

TSA had given deadline to PIA for detailed checking to be started at Manchester which could force the passengers to opt for an airline other than PIA, as the security check could increase the travel time from 16 to 25 hours, sources in PIA said. As per details, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had warned PIA that after April 22nd, 2012 all passengers and luggage on board PIA aircrafts would be subjected to another security check at the Manchester airport prior to arriving in US destinations.

When contacted TI Pakistan head Adil Gillani said that though PIA management has tried to get TI on board regarding procurement of two Jumbo planes which were supposed to be used for Haj purpose but TIP has objected on procurement process and said why management was not going to purchase planes from Airbus rather than Boeing Company.

He said that as per Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) every procurement should be made through tender.

Whereas sources in PIA were of the view that MD PIA was trying to purchase two Jumbo from Saudi Airlines against throw away price and secondly the airline has all sort of infrastructure of jumbo planes including, trained crew members, wide body hanger, spare parts and engines etc.

“It is matter of national interest and TIP should support such steps of PIA MD to pull the airlines out of losses” a senior PIA officer said.

A head of Association of PIA and also office-bearer of Joint Action Committee of Pakistan International Airlines (JACPIA) said on condition of not to be named that Rao was moving in the right direction. He said MD takes officer-bearers of different associations in PIA into confidence while taking any important decision. He also appreciated other steps taken by MD in the near past.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of ET story on privatization in Pakistan:

“The way to economic growth is to let markets, and not the government, dictate prices and allocate economic resources,” said (Ishrat) Husain, who currently serves as the dean and director of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), a leading business school based in Karachi.

Husain touched briefly on the theoretical arguments in favour of privatisation before laying out in detail how – in the few cases where it had been tried in Pakistan – it had produced a roaring success.

He gave three examples: banking, the telecommunications sector, and the power sector. In each, he laid out the reasons why it had been a success.

In the banking sector, for instance, before privatisation, the largest banks in the country were all government owned. In the early 2000s, the three big banks that the government decided to sell cost the national exchequer about Rs41 billion in bailouts in order to ensure that they were adequately capitalised. By 2011, far from needing banks, those same three banks were paying in Rs25 billion in corporate income taxes.

Indeed, Husain argued that, had the banking sector remained in government hands, the 2008 financial crisis would have been much worse than it was, and would have crippled the financial sector. The privately run banks, however, were able to weather the storm reasonably well and now nearly all of the major banks, and certainly all of the Big Five, are profitable.

To contrast with this success, Husain brought up the example of the Pakistan Steel Mills, the privatisation transaction of which was stopped by the Supreme Court on allegations of corruption in 2006. Since the transaction was halted, Pakistan Steel Mills has cost the government about Rs100 billion in bailouts. “And this does not even include the amount of foreign exchange we had to spend on importing steel because PSM is so badly run that it cannot operate on more than 25% capacity,” said Husain.
He also addressed the concern that privatisation leads these companies to shed jobs, pointing out that many of them are too bloated in the first place, and that it is not the government’s role to employ everyone. “Of the more than 57 million people in the Pakistani workforce, only 2.5 million [less than 4.4%] work in the government and state-owned enterprises. Most of the jobs in this country come from the private sector, which is where the growth lies,” he said. So comprehensive was Husain’s arguments, that apart from two brief questions, nobody had anything left to ask him.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on Thai Airlines adding flights to and from Pakistan:

“Our passenger base is growing continuously in Pakistan and we felt the need to increase flights for customer convenience,” he added.

The new flight from Karachi will start from November 30, from Islamabad it will begin from December 1 and from Lahore the flight will start from February 20, 2013.

Responding to a question about fares, Manager Sales and Marketing Pakistan Asad Farooqui said despite financial constraints and rising operating cost, the airline kept its fares competitive in Pakistan over the years to keep up with competition.

After the addition of one more flight, the total number of weekly flights from Karachi will be five, from Islamabad the number will rise to four and from Lahore it will be six in a week.

With six flights a week, Lahore tops among three major cities of Pakistan. Giving the reason for this, Farooqui said most of the Pakistanis from upcountry areas preferred to travel from Lahore to Bangkok and beyond.

To a question about annual growth rate of the airline in Pakistan, Farooqui said he could not immediately tell the growth figure for the air carrier. “Definitely, we are growing in Pakistan,” he said, “from three flights at our launch 37 years ago, today we are operating 15 flights a week.”

Pakistani passengers were mostly business-related people, tourists and students, he said, adding most Pakistani businessmen used Thai Airways to travel to China, while tourists usually visited Thailand and neighbouring countries. In addition to these, a number of Pakistani students travelled to Australia through Thai Airways.

The air carrier started operations from Karachi 37 years ago, added Lahore to its network 15 years ago and Islamabad eight years ago.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story about Air Arabia increasing flights to Pakistan:

UAE budget carrier Air Arabia on Wednesday announced the expansion of services to Karachi in Pakistan.

The four weekly flights from Sharjah to Karachi have been increased to daily flights, the airline said in a statement.

"We are extremely pleased to announce the expansion of services to Karachi in Pakistan," said Adel Ali, Group CEO, Air Arabia.

"Since launching operations to Pakistan, it has always been a market of focus for us, and the launch of additional services is a result of increasing customer demand from the market.

"The ever growing appeal for Air Arabia flights, underpinned by the value for money services, signals that Air Arabia continues to be the airline of choice for millions of passengers who travels between Pakistan and the UAE," he added.

Air Arabia started operations to Pakistan in 2007 with a launch of direct service to Karachi. Today, the carrier offers services Karachi and Peshawar.

Earlier this month, Air Arabia saw its net profit more than double to AED226m ($61.5m) in the third quarter of 2012 compared to the year ago quarter.

The airline, which operates out of Sharjah International Airport, posted revenues of AED836m for the three-month period ending September 30, up 19 percent from the corresponding quarter in 2011.

Passenger traffic rose 14 percent to 1.37m, while average seat load factor stood at 82 percent.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Korean news agency Yonhap on Zardari's visit:

SEOUL, Dec. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari agreed Tuesday to bolster all-round economic cooperation between the two countries, especially in the areas of railways and hydropower, the presidential office said.

Zardari arrived in Seoul on Monday for a three-day official visit, and held summit talks with Lee with a focus on strengthening cooperation in trade and investment, infrastructure construction, energy and development assistance, the office said.

The two sides signed two memorandums of understanding, one calling for Pakistan to provide supportive measures for South Korean aid projects to the country and the other calling for cooperation in railway modernization and related projects in Pakistan.

Lee and Zardari noted that trade between the two countries climbed to US$1.56 billion last year following a fall in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis, and that South Korean firms are getting actively involved in infrastructure, chemical and other projects in Pakistan, the office said.

Zardari expressed gratitude for South Korea's official development aid to the country, and South Korea agreed to help Pakistan draw up a national development plan, known as the "Country Partnership Strategy," by the first half of next year, the office said.

Zardari also offered congratulations to South Korea on its election as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation at the global body. Pakistan also holds membership on the council.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's ET with a bit of good news about Pak Railway:

ISLAMABAD: Despite suffering yet another year plagued with debt and acute lack of fuel, the Pakistan Railways (PR) said on Wednesday that it managed to restore various closed trains on main and branch lines after receiving engines from various divisions.

An official of Pakistan Railways while talking to APP here on Wednesday said that key among the lines restored include the freight system which has been put back on the track due to fortuitous availability of engines.

Private trains bring windfall for PR

The Railways official revealed that the move to allow private operators has been a boon for PR through which they earned Rs1 billion profit during2012.

The Shalimar and Business Expresses lines operating under a public private partnership arrangement afforded the cash-strapped national carrier an unexpected windfall. This small offering, though may not be enough to wipe out the department’s enormous debt or bring it back in contention for travel or freight, but it has certainly made Pakistan Railways hungry for more of the same.

“We are also planning to run more trains with the help of private sector to bring out organisation from the financial crisis” the official said.

Govt handout still needed for PR

Meanwhile, the department has had its pleas answered by the monied corridors of the federal government with Rs6 billion released for the department to purchase engine spare parts.

“This would help bring around 100 engines back on track within next few months,” says the report.

All out efforts are being made to improve performance and efficiency of Pakistan Railways and to make it a profit-earning organisation.

The out-of-order locomotives are being locally repaired and overhauled at Central Diesel Locomotive (CDL) workshop.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's ET on Pakistan Railway revenue increase from private partners:


The cash-strapped Pakistan Railways (PR) appears to be benefiting from its joint ventures with private companies: officials at the state-owned company admitted that the partnerships accounted for 26% of total passenger revenues for the railways, despite accounting for less than 1% of passenger traffic, during the first six months of financial year 2013.

Revenues for the Railways were up by 19.9% to Rs7.7 billion during the period between July 1 and December 20, 2012, compared to the same period in the previous year. Nearly 89% of that increase came from rising revenues in the passenger segment of the Railways, and nearly all of that increase came from the two public-private partnerships, where companies have leased out routes from Pakistan Railways. Passenger services account for nearly three-quarters of all Railways revenue.

In February 2012, Pakistan Railways signed an agreement to allow the Four Brothers Group, a diversified conglomerate, to run the Business Express, a refurbished train to that travels between Karachi and Lahore. The Railways gets Rs3.1 million per day for the service as a flat fee for the use of its stations and tracks. In March, a similar agreement privatised the newly revitalised Shalimar Express, operated by Air Rail Services, which provides the Railways with Rs1.5 million in lease revenues per day.
The Privatisation Commission lists Pakistan Railways as a state-owned entity that is up for sale. Yet the left-leaning government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party seems to loathe privatising an entity that – with over 82,000 employees – is one of the largest employers in the country. An outright privatisation would almost certainly mean massive job losses, since the Railways have massive redundancies in their workforce.

And so the government appears to be pursuing what can only be described as a backdoor privatisation, where certain routes are leased out to private companies to run in exchange for fixed revenues. In addition to the two that started last year, a third train – the Night Coach – has also started service from Karachi to Lahore. It is also operated by Air Rail Services and its lease payments are set at Rs1.7 million per day.

“In the coming days, we are hoping that passenger revenues will reflect the expected increase from the latest joint venture,” said Zubair Shafi Ghauri, the spokesperson for Pakistan Railways. “We are now looking for some short-distance joint ventures from remote junctions to facilitate the rural population, though nothing is final yet.”

Whether or not this business model is sustainable is an open question. The management of the Business Express claims that their operational breakeven occurs at 55% occupancy levels, which they are only marginally above, despite operating on the popular Lahore-Karachi route. The Shalimar Express is faring a little better, with a 71% occupancy rate on the same route, with a slightly smaller train.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Chinese report on Pakistan buying 600 million yuan (approx US$ 100) worth of locomotives:

(Beijing) – Shanghai-listed railway equipment manufacturer CSR Corp. Ltd. won bids for contracts in Pakistan and Turkmenistan on February 4.

CSR's subsidiary in Ziyang, Sichuan Province, will make 50 locomotives for Pakistan. CSR expects to deliver the first 10 by the end of the year and the rest by the end of May 2014.

Turkmenistan ordered 154 passenger cars and they will be delivered this year. CSR's wholly owned subsidiary in Nanjing will make the cars.

CSR did not say how much the contracts were worth. However, a CSR source said the usual price for 50 locomotives was about 600 million yuan, and that for 154 cars was 400 million yuan.

Last month, CSR's subsidiary in Qingdao, Shandong Province, won a 3.43 billion yuan contract to make electric train units for Argentina. It was the largest South American contract by value for a Chinese railway equipment manufacturer.

CSR is in talks with several international clients for other contracts, the source at the company said. This year its overseas sales are expected to surpass those of 2012.

CSR's revenue in the first half of last year was 42.4 billion yuan, up 5.8 percent compared to the same period in 2011, its financial report shows. Its revenue from overseas over that period was 4.8 billion yuan, rising 95.58 percent. The company's overseas revenue over the first six months of 2012 accounted for 11.33 percent of its total revenue, the first time the figure reached double-digits.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on $400 m WB loan for Sind education:

The World Bank will give $400 million for the promotion and development of education in Sindh.

This was stated by country director of World Bank Pakistan Rachid Benmessaoud who called on Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah at the CM House on Monday along with a two-member delegation.

According to a statement issued by the Chief Minister House, Mr Benmessaoud further said that the WB would also help in development of irrigation and agriculture in the province.

The chief minister thanked the World Bank for assistance in various fields, especially in the education, health, agriculture and irrigation sectors.

He assured the WB officials that the provincial government was paying full attention to completion of development schemes on time and as per schedule.

The chief minister said problems in promotion and development of education would be resolved.

He said recruitment of teachers in the education department was being made strictly on merit.

The government had already recruited 16,000 teachers and that 19,000 more teachers would be hired on merit, he added.

He said that educational facilities were being extended in rural and far-flung areas of the province.

Mr Shah said that despite floods and rains over the past three years, there was headway in various fields.

The World Bank country chief appreciated the policy of merit for the recruitment of teachers.

He said the WB wanted to see headway in all sectors.

Sindh finance secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch and additional chief secretary of planning and development Arif Ahmed Khan were also present on the occasion

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News blog post on GeoTV's program "Chal Parha" hosted by singer Shehzad Roy:

We’ve seen some scintillating performances by Shehzad Roy ranging from ’Laga rahay’ to ‘Uth Baandh Kamar kya Darta hai’. His proximity with the general public and the extent to which he seeks solutions for the myriad problems being faced by Pakistan, exhibit his patriotism. On the other hand, his non-governmental organization – ‘Zindagi Trust’
has burgeoned up since 2007 to contest the case of ‘education emergency’ in Pakistan.


A pop-singer, Roy is both a motivation and a lesson for any young adult living in this country. Unlike many, he isn’t chasing projection in the neighbouring media outlets, allured by ‘piles of money’ or the lust for fame. If he continues with his efforts, there are good enough chances for him to introduce a new ‘genre’ in Pakistani music industry- something like ‘social responsibility’.

Similar to other institutional transitions budding in the Pakistani society, ‘music’ also requires a reorientation. The mass media (including ‘music’ as a means of communication) is also ploughing for a ‘fresh crop’ that wants to satisfy the need of ‘social uplift’.

Making the message of ‘positive change’ vocal, isn’t an easy task. However, ‘music’ seems to be the compatible format considering the level of ignorance and illiteracy in the Pakistani society. Any nation heading towards intellectual demise should be purported by arts, literature and music to engender the thirst for ‘knowledge’.

Chal Parha- a new program being aired on GEO TV during prime time slot is a success story for the local media. It is for the first time that the most urgent need of the country has seeped into the electronic media to grab the ‘time’ and ‘space’ of a television channel. The show is unique with regards to purpose and format. Above all, it has the privilege of ‘Shehzad Roy’ serving as a testimonial. As the renowned singer himself says: “In this show, I travel across 80 cities in Pakistan from Attabad Jheel and Gulmit to Gojal and Thar and film in more than 200 government schools. In each episode we highlight an issue from public schools for example, corporal punishment, medium of instruction, population, textbooks, curriculum, teachers etc”
The promotional song (Chal Parha) of the program defines the digression of the society, in general, for not giving due attention to ’education’. In a light yet piercing manner, the lyrics serve as a stringer for the listeners. It is a rhythmic reminder to rescue the country from the darkness of illiteracy through the light of ’education’. Moreover, an allusion towards another dilemma of the society has also been made, that is, the non-acceptance or indifference shown to talented people. Roy selects a young girl hailing from Faisalabad as a co-vocalist for the song in order to encourage her exceptional singing abilities. She complains of the lack of projection given to talented individuals in Pakistan, the reason she hums melodiously: Pair ho par saya na ho, din ho par ujala na ho, aisaa mumkin nahi… (‘how can hope and darkness coexist?’). Shehzad aptly responds to this: Yai anhonee jo baat hai, mairay dais k saath hai (this strange thing is seen in ‘my’ country).

Chal Parha is another call to declare ‘education emergency’ in Pakistan – not just by adding Article 25-A in the Constitution, but to ensure its fair and proper implementation. It aims at revolutionizing the education system of the country for saving the lives of innumerable talented gems and to alter the fate of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Trib report on new private airlines in Pakistan:

Undeterred by devastating setbacks faced by private carriers over the past few years, three more business groups have applied for airline licences to start operations in the country, industry officials have told The Express Tribune.
Rayyan Air, Vision Air and Fly Pakistan Air have decided to enter the market at a time when a shortage of operational aircraft at the state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has created room for more carriers.
Vision Air International and Fly Pakistan Air have filed requests for regular public transport licences with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), while a licence has already been issued to Rayyan Air, officials said.
“All three airlines are in different stages of commencing operations. All of them seem committed, but only time will tell how many will actually survive,” commented a senior CAA official.
These airlines follow in the footsteps of privately-run Bhoja Air and Indus Air, both of which were issued aviation licences last year. Within months of its launch, Bhoja’s maiden flight to Islamabad tragically crashed, killing all 127 persons onboard the aircraft. Since then, its aircraft have been grounded and seized by the CAA as the airline struggles to settle insurance claims.
----When Pakistan adopted an ‘open skies’ policy in the 1990s, more than 20 licences were issued to prospective airliners: almost none of them survived, the sole exception being Shaheen Air. Meanwhile, high fuel prices and stiff competition has already eroded the profitability of airlines around the world. However, Rayyan Air says this does not discourage serious investors.
“It is wrong to say those airlines failed because of market conditions. All of them tried to make quick money, losing sight of long-term goals,” said Bhatti.
Vision Air International is a completely new enterprise, put together by retired air vice marshal Aamer Sharif and a former managing director of Bhoja Air. However, it is equally optimistic about its prospects: “Pakistani air traffic is growing by 10-12% every year,” Sharif said. “Middle East-based airlines are flying more and more passengers out of Pakistan. There is a huge market here.”
The lack of serious competition has allowed existing domestic carriers to arbitrarily increase fares, he claimed. “There is room for at least two or three more airlines right now,” he added.
According to our sources, Fly Pakistan Air has many backers; including a son of ex-DG CAA Nadeem Khan Yousufzai, and industry veteran Haider Jalal. Jalal is a former managing director of Aero Asia, yet another airline that went belly-up a couple of years ago. A company official refused to provide any further insights, saying they are still in talks with government officials.
Around 15 million Pakistani passengers use airlines to travel every year, with 8.3 million of them flying to international destinations and the remaining flying to local cities.
Industry officials say running an airline is a capital-intensive business, which needs professionals to manage it properly.-----

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an FT report on Nawaz Sharif's plans to revive economy:

Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s new prime minister, will appoint private sector managers to run state companies in efforts to revive an economy starved of investment, say leaders of his party.
Mr Sharif, who has been prime minister twice before, launched a similar policy in 1997 when he appointed commercial bankers to run three large public sector banks. All three became profitable and two, Habib Bank and United Bank, were privatised.

The plan faces a backlash from trade unions. Mr Sharif’s aides compared the process to the privatisations in the UK by Margaret Thatcher after she became prime minister in 1979.
Sartaj Aziz, former finance and foreign minister and a leader of Mr Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, told the Financial Times: “The formula is simple. You appoint good people, you allow them to appoint their people and you empower them. The government helps wherever it can.”

Officials said Ishaq Dar, a confidant of Mr Sharif, would take up his former post of finance minister in the new government.
Final results have yet to be declared but business leaders have welcomed a vote that will probably allow Mr Sharif, a wealthy Punjabi steel magnate, to have an absolute majority in parliament without the need for coalition partners.
Investors in Pakistan said they were tired of grappling with power cuts of up to 20 hours a day, widespread corruption in public life and an inefficient public sector. Mr Sharif has identified rescuing the economy as his number one priority.
A central bank official said public sector companies in power, rail transport and aviation run up huge losses each year amounting to more than 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product. “These are clearly white elephants,” he said.
Mian Muhammad Mansha, the Lahore-based owner of a Pakistani conglomerate who is reputed to be the country’s richest man, approvingly quoted a reference to Thatcher as a “modern Joan of Arc” and said Pakistan needed structural reforms similar to hers.
“First you need to get all these public sector companies out of government control,” he said. “This will release so much money that they are losing and it will make politics clean.”

The 1997 bank plan saw Mr Sharif’s government dismiss some 20,000 employees who were all given large redundancy payments. The current reform plan may meet resistance not only from unions but from politicians who are used to arranging contracts for their businesses from public sector companies.

“Mr Sharif will have to keep his own politicians under control if he wants his plan to succeed. In the past, many have thrived on patronage,” said Suhail Jehangir Malik, an economist. “Public sector companies are a huge drain on our national economy. Reforming them must be a primary objective for the new government.”
The plan is likely to win support from international donors, including the International Monetary Fund, which is expecting to begin negotiations shortly on a new $9bn loan to stave off a balance of payments crisis. Pakistan’s foreign reserves are equivalent to the value of two months of imports.
“The problem with Pakistan is both macroeconomic weakness and long-term structural issues,” said one person involved in preliminary talks with the interim government in power over the election period. “Given the severity of the economic problems, we do need to have a government that is going to undertake quite serious economic reforms.”
Under a so-called extended fund facility of up to four years, Pakistan would be expected to cut its budget deficit by increasing tax revenues, directing subsidies more accurately towards the poor and introducing policies to encourage foreign direct investment.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on Nawaz Sharif govt's privatization plan:

The government directed the Privatisation Commission on Thursday to immediately start the process for sale of 31 public sector entities (PSEs) through initial and secondary public offering and transfer of 26 per cent shares, along with management control, to the private sector.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation, presided over by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, to comply with a structural benchmark agreed to under the IMF programme.

Minister of Water and Power Khawja Asif, Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, Minister of State for Privatisation Khurram Dastagir, federal secretaries, the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan and the Board of Investment attended the meeting.

An official said the Council of Common Interests had approved these transactions in 2006, 2009 and 2011 and the CCOP just reiterated the government’s approval to go ahead with the ambitious privatisation programme.

The meeting considered a list of public sector companies submitted by the Privatisation Commission.

“After thorough deliberations, the committee agreed to initiate the process of privatisation and directed the commission to ensure that the interests of employees were to be protected at all cost,” said a statement issued by the ministry of finance.

“Most of the PSEs will be offered to the private sector through strategic divestment, including up to 26pc stakes along with management control, while shares of other companies will be offloaded through public offering,” an official told Dawn.

He said the committee did not take a decision on which companies be sold through strategic disinvestment because this was something the Privatisation Commission would propose after in-house deliberations and consultations with financial advisers.

The companies cleared for divestment include the Oil and Gas Development Company Limited, Pakistan Petroleum Limited, Mari Gas, Pak-Arab Refinery, Pakistan State Oil, Sui Southern Gas Company Limited, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited, Pakistan International Airlines, PIA-Roosevelt Hotel, New York, Pakistan Railways, Gujranwala Electric Power Company, Lahore Electric Supply Company, Islamabad Electric Supply Company, Faisalabad Electric Supply Company, Northern Electric Generation Company, Pakistan Steel Mills, National Power Construction Company and Pakistan National Shipping Corporation.

The financial sector entities selected for sale in the first phase include National Bank of Pakistan, First Women Bank, Small and Medium Enterprises Bank, National Investment Trust Limited, National Insurance Company Limited, Pakistan Reinsurance Company Limited, State Life Insurance Corporation and House Building Finance Corporation.

The Civil Aviation Authority, Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim Authority and National Highway Authority are also on the list.

The government has made a commitment with the IMF to announce a strategy for the sale of 30 firms by the end of September as a benchmark for disbursement of second tranche of the IMF loan. Under the commitment, the government is to announce privatisation plans for remainder of total 65 entities by the end of 2013.

“We are developing medium-term action plans to restructure the PIA, Steel Mills and Railways. The action plans include partial privatisation of companies through initial or secondary public offering,” the government had told the IMF....

Riaz Haq said...

Pak Supreme court should stay out of economic decisions like fixing prices for electricity. Targeted subsidies should be given to low income households to help with energy costs. General subsidies for electricity and petrol take 34% of government's revenue ,bust budget and raise deficits and drive inflation (by printing more money to pay) hurting the low-income people the most.

But I also believe Supreme Court's record on economic decisions like canceling steel mill privatization in 2005 is really bad. I want Chaudhry court to stay out of it

Energy subsidies in #Pakistan take up astounding 34% of gov revenue.Table A.3 of impressive IMF book:

Riaz Haq said...

There are some who are concerned that Nawaz Sharif will gift state-owned companies like PIA and Pak Steel to his buddies like Mian Mansha.

Regardless who they are sold to at whatever price, Pakistani taxpayers will be better off. These state-owned companies are used by politicians for political patronage by hiring large numbers of incompetent and corrupt people. These enterprises are sucking up a lot of tax money year after year.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ story on progress in Pakistan privatization:

Pakistan expects to complete a series of large privatization transactions this spring, the country's finance minister said, in moves that would raise badly needed foreign exchange and dispel growing concerns about the slow pace of reforms.

In addition to billions of dollars in revenue from state asset sales, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which came to power in June, is also looking for as much as $5 billion from auctioning off third- and fourth-generation mobile-phone licenses, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told The Wall Street Journal. Another plan in the works is to split into two companies the loss-making flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines Corp. PIAA.KA +0.37% , ahead of selling a stake, he said.

Mr. Sharif inherited a troubled economy, plagued by an energy crisis that left industries without power, and a deteriorating security situation. Since then, the government took major steps to cut subsidies and eliminate debt in the electricity sector, reducing blackouts. It also negotiated a $6.6 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund, staving off default.

The economy has since shown signs of reviving, even though growth barely keeps up with the birthrate. The IMF this month acknowledged the tentative turnaround, especially in the large-scale manufacturing and services sectors, and raised its forecast for gross domestic product growth this fiscal year to 3.1% from the previous estimate of 2.8%. The government is much more optimistic, expecting growth of some 4.4%.

"I am quite happy and satisfied that things are moving the way they should be. We are right on track," Mr. Dar said. "We are pursuing and taking the most difficult decisions, a few of which are politically unpopular. But, to fix the economy, those stabilizing measures as well as structural reforms were necessary."

In part because of interference by the country's activist judiciary, which questioned a number of government appointments, reforms have been relatively slow so far, especially on the privatization front, many critics say. Soon after taking office, Mr. Sharif's government pledged to sell stakes in 31 state-owned companies. Many of these, however, are still in the process of selecting new management teams.

"It's all entangled in this sense of going cautiously, which in turn has adverse impact as far as economic expectations are concerned," said Ishrat Hussain, the director of the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi and a former governor of Pakistan's central bank. "The investors don't see anything happening of a dynamic, vibrant nature. If they see a few privatization transactions successfully completed, they will bring in their money and invest. They are waiting for privatization to take place before they go for greenfield projects."
In addition to privatizations, the government is planning to raise money this fiscal year through the long-delayed sale of 3G and 4G mobile spectrum. Pakistan is the only major country in the region that still doesn't have 3G service—overtaken even by war-torn Afghanistan to the north.

The government has yet to decide whether to auction off just 3G, or 3G and 4G spectrum together, Mr. Dar said. Selling just 3G licenses could raise between $1.2 billion to $2 billion, and bundling them with 4G spectrum could generate between $4 billion and $5 billion, Mr. Dar estimated. He added that the government is considering issuing more licenses on top of the four cellular providers that currently operate in Pakistan.

"We want new entrants to compete," he said, "to give better service and to provide more money to the auction."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ story on progress in Pakistan privatization:

Pakistan expects to complete a series of large privatization transactions this spring, the country's finance minister said....

In addition to billions of dollars in revenue from state asset sales, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which came to power in June, is also looking for as much as $5 billion from auctioning off third- and fourth-generation mobile-phone licenses, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told The Wall Street Journal. Another plan in the works is to split into two companies the loss-making flag carrier, Pakistan International Airlines Corp. PIAA.KA +0.37% , ahead of selling a stake, he said.


The economy has since shown signs of reviving, even though growth barely keeps up with the birthrate. The IMF this month acknowledged the tentative turnaround, especially in the large-scale manufacturing and services sectors, and raised its forecast for gross domestic product growth this fiscal year to 3.1% from the previous estimate of 2.8%. The government is much more optimistic, expecting growth of some 4.4%.

"I am quite happy and satisfied that things are moving the way they should be. We are right on track," Mr. Dar said. "We are pursuing and taking the most difficult decisions, a few of which are politically unpopular. But, to fix the economy, those stabilizing measures as well as structural reforms were necessary."

In part because of interference by the country's activist judiciary, which questioned a number of government appointments, reforms have been relatively slow so far, especially on the privatization front, many critics say. Soon after taking office, Mr. Sharif's government pledged to sell stakes in 31 state-owned companies. Many of these, however, are still in the process of selecting new management teams.

"It's all entangled in this sense of going cautiously, which in turn has adverse impact as far as economic expectations are concerned," said Ishrat Hussain, the director of the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi and a former governor of Pakistan's central bank. "The investors don't see anything happening of a dynamic, vibrant nature. If they see a few privatization transactions successfully completed, they will bring in their money and invest. They are waiting for privatization to take place before they go for greenfield projects."
"The government is very keen on privatization, but I'm of the opinion that it will lose a lot of political capital on it," said Hussain Dawood, a tycoon with interests in the fertilizers, chemicals and power industries. "There is going to be a political backlash because all sorts of people have vested interests."

This backlash, however, isn't necessarily insurmountable. "When there are privatizations, you can't satisfy all the participants," said Mr. Siddiqui of JS Bank. "But if the will is there to privatize, and the intention is to do it in a transparent manner, they should not be afraid of criticism."
In addition to privatizations, the government is planning to raise money this fiscal year through the long-delayed sale of 3G and 4G mobile spectrum. Pakistan is the only major country in the region that still doesn't have 3G service—overtaken even by war-torn Afghanistan to the north.

The government has yet to decide whether to auction off just 3G, or 3G and 4G spectrum together, Mr. Dar said. Selling just 3G licenses could raise between $1.2 billion to $2 billion, and bundling them with 4G spectrum could generate between $4 billion and $5 billion, Mr. Dar estimated. He added that the government is considering issuing more licenses on top of the four cellular providers that currently operate in Pakistan....

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's federal government and Sindh provincial government are close to a deal with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to finance a modern mass transit system befitting the megacity of Karachi with a population of nearly 20 million, according to a Pakistani TV Channel.

The mass transit project will feature modern trains with automatic signalling and telecommunication system. An automatic train control (ATC) system will be set up. The train stations will feature computerized ticketing and vending machines, automated ticket gates and elevators. It will be run by Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC).

Riaz Haq said...

LAHORE: Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique has said Chinese investment and supply of coal will play a significant role in boosting performance of Pakistan Railways.

Addressing a news conference in Lahore‚ he said China will invest 32 billion dollars in Pakistan. Out of this amount‚ four billion dollars investment will be made in Pakistan Railways.

He said no recommendation regarding privatization of the Railways is under consideration.

The minister said private investment will be welcomed in Pakistan Railways through a transparent manner.

He said steps are underway to utilize Railways land in a proper way.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on the adverse economic impact of activist judges in Pakistan:

Former State Bank of Pakistan governor Dr Ishrat Hussain claims that the country’s economy has suffered as a result of interventions by the Supreme Court in recent years.
While addressing the International Judicial Conference’s working group on Saturday, he said the country’s risk profile has been elevated as the investors fear of being embroiled in endless litigation.
“Even if the investors overcome procedural hurdles, they are now faced with an additional concern of being dragged into the court over legal lacunas, which adds to uncertainty and unpredictability of investing in Pakistan,” the former central bank chief said.
Dr Hussain said that despite fulfilling the requirements, the fear that the country’s courts may take suo motu notice of the transaction, and subsequently issue a stay order, deters businesses from investing in Pakistan.
“A large number of frivolous petitions are filed every year that have dire economic consequences. While the cost of such filings is insignificant the economy suffers enormously,” he added.
Highlighting SC’s judgments in cases such as, Reko Diq, LNG project and privatisation of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), the former SBP chief said the decisions have had a negative impact on the country’s economic development.

About the LNG case, Dr Hussain said the government received several bids but they could not proceed further due to the court’s intervention, adding that there is a need for expeditious disposal of suo motu cases related to economic issues.
Similarly, commenting on SC’s judgment in the PSM case, he said the country has not carried out a single transaction of privatisation since the decision.
The former central bank chief said the court judgments have instilled fear among the civil servants and political leaders for putting out any public assets for sale to avoid judicial intervention.
Lastly, taking a swipe at the judicial activism, Dr Hussain said the court’s interference in the appointments, promotions and terminations was hampering the operations of civil services.
Treading a cautious line, the former state bank governor said, “Let me submit with all the humility and without sounding arrogant or offending anyone’s sensibilities, that economic decision are highly complex and its repercussions are interlinked both in time as well as space.”
He recommended that laws related to Land Revenue Act needed to be updated, in accordance with modern demands of agro business, industry, commerce, infrastructure, etc.
The former SBP chief also stated that the disposal by the banking courts was 23,694 against a total of 68,973 outstanding cases which was lower than the disposal rate by all special courts and Administrative Tribunals.

Riaz Haq said...

Some of the world’s biggest consultants, PR firms and accountants, as well as a handful of boutique banks, are competing for a tough assignment that’s only gotten harder in recent weeks: Running the sale of a minority stake in Pakistan’s money-hemorrhaging state airline, Pakistan International Airlines.
PIA, as the airline is known, dates back to the creation of Pakistan itself, when it was formed at the urging of country founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. For most of the last decade, though, it has been losing money, thanks to combination of mismanagement, political turmoil, and general economic woes. Pakistan agreed to sell off 26% of the airline last year, as one of many conditions attached to loan of nearly $7 billion from International Monetary Fund.
Now five consortia are vying to run the PIA sale. The list of players includes more than two dozen different advisers, including Ernst & Young, McKinsey, Deloitte & Touche, Apco, Freshfields, Jefferies, and Rothschild (a full breakdown of the five groups was reported by Pakistan’s Express Tribune earlier this week).
The winning group is tasked with finding a strategic partner that can take managerial control—in other words, turn around an airline that has been run into the ground. They may have a tough time—PIA’s losses are getting progressively

Losses have been mounting in part because of the challenging “law and order” situation in the country, PIA said in its 2013 annual report. What’s more, because it cannot afford to buy new aircraft, the number of flights are dropping:

PIA downsized its business again significantly in early June, cutting 26 foreign and domestic flights a day because it did not have enough planes to service them.
As if the business challenges weren’t difficult enough, there has been a recent surge in violence at Pakistan’s airports. Pakistan’s Taliban staged two attacks in early June on Karachi airport, killing several people. On June 24, a PIA aircraft was hit by gunfire as it was landing in Peshawar, killing one. Because of the attacks, several airlines that had pledged to lend PIA planes—which could have helped it restore the routes it trimmed—have rescinded the offer, Dawn reported today.
Still, managing PIA the stake sale may be attractive to the banks and accounting firms because Pakistan is planning to privatize billions of dollars worth of state-owned assets, including oil and gas companies, power companies and banks in the coming months. The country hopes to raise as much as $4 billion from privatizing state assets in the fiscal year that started July 1, despite recent aggressive attacks by the Taliban.
The consortium that can sell off a stake in money-losing PIA in this challenging environment stands to win a lot more of that business.

Riaz Haq said...

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan plans to split ailing national flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) into two companies and sell control of the core business to a global airline over the next 18 months, but political opposition to the sell-off will be intense, the country’s privatization czar said.

Financial advisers are now in talks with several airlines about taking over cash-strapped PIA, which has some 17,000 employees but just 36 aircraft — and 10 of them are grounded due to a lack of spare parts.

Mohammad Zubair told Reuters in an interview during a visit to New Delhi that no decision had been taken on the buyer, but he mentioned Emirates airline, Etihad and Qatar Airways — the Gulf giants that dominate the regional sector — as possibilities.

“It’s going to be the most difficult sale,” said Zubair, who is aiming to raise around $4bn this fiscal year from the sale of stakes in several companies, anticipating demands that the government hold onto PIA and nurse it back to health itself. “If we are saying that for 25 years PIA has been going from bad to worse, we can’t claim that we are business-savvy and we can turn it around. Anyone who thinks that the government can fund it is living in a fool’s paradise.”

Zubair, a former IBM chief financial officer for the Middle East and Africa, was tapped by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take charge of a central plank of economic reforms promised by Islamabad in return for an International Monetary Fund bailout. Pakistan announced this week that it will seek to raise about $815mn through a sale of shares in Oil and Gas Development Co (OGDC), its largest offering in eight years.

Zubair said investors are returning to Pakistan after weeks of anti-government protests in Islamabad that have now fizzled out, and the OGDC deal representing 7.5% of the company’s share capital would be a test of their confidence. The OGDC sale is part of a sell-off drive to raise capital for an economy that has been crippled for years by power shortages, corruption and militant violence, and to staunch huge losses from dysfunctional companies. Zubair said the losses of power distribution companies alone are equivalent to one-sixth of the government’s fiscal revenues.

Next on the block will be the government’s 40% stake in Habib Bank Ltd, which will be sold in two stages between November and next March, for around $1.2bn. Also ahead is the sale, targeted at domestic investors, of the state’s 7.5% stake in Allied Bank Ltd, for around $150mn, Zubair said.

Over the years, critics say, governments have manipulated state Corps like PIA for political and financial gain, giving jobs to so many supporters that the size of the workforce has become unsustainable in the face of mounting losses.

Zubair said that PIA’s employee-to-aircraft ratio, at around 600, is one of the worst in the world and keeps going up as more planes are grounded. Under his plan, the airline will be spun off as a separate entity and PIA’s other interests — such as ground-handling, catering, hotels and even a poultry business — would go into a holding company that would be retained by the state.

To avoid mass layoffs that would run into political opposition the holding company would absorb all the employees, keep a share in the airline to earn dividend income and then sell off each of its interests individually over time.

Zubair said he could not proceed with the sale of PIA as quickly as other companies, partly because parliament may have to approve legislation allowing it to pass into private hands. “It’s more politically sensitive,” he said. “PIA is not going to be sold just like that.”

Riaz Haq said...

The government sold its entire stake in the country’s largest private-sector bank for $1.02 billion Saturday, the biggest so far in a series of divestitures planned to help revive Pakistan’s economy.

The government approved a strike price of 168 Pakistani rupees, about $1.68, per share, for its 41.5% stake, or 609 million shares, in Habib Bank Ltd. on Saturday, compared with the floor price of 166 rupees, or $1.66, set at the start of book-building, which began Tuesday.

Pakistan’s privatization minister Mohammad Zubair said the stake was “heavily oversubscribed,” with offers worth $1.6 billion for 955 million shares, of which $1.2 billion was offered by foreign investors.

“This is by far the largest in Pakistan’s history, the demand that we got,” Mr. Zubair said. “It’s also the largest for any Asian frontier market country.”

Of the $1.02 billion raised, the finance ministry said $764 million was foreign investment.

“The bulk of this money, $764 million dollars [from international investors], will boost foreign exchange reserves, which will stabilize the currency further, which in turn will have a positive impact on inflation,” Mr. Zubair said.

Pakistan had $16.7 billion in total liquid foreign exchange reserves as of April 3, according to the central bank.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government has made privatization and divestitures from as many as 31 state enterprises major components of its plan to boost Pakistan’s economy, especially its foreign exchange reserves. Mr. Sharif’s government has already sold shares in United Bank, Allied Bank and energy company Pakistan Petroleum Ltd. A plan to sell a portion of the government’s stake in the Oil and Gas Development Co. Ltd., the country’s largest oil and gas business, for $800 million was abandoned in November because of poor investor demand.

The sale of the government’s Habib Bank stake is Pakistan’s largest capital market transaction in a decade, officials said. The government is currently working on the privatization of Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills and several power distribution companies, finance ministry and privatization commission officials said.

Brokers and analysts said interest in the Habib Bank shares was boosted by strong participation by foreign investors.

“The response was far better than earlier expected. Nobody expected that it could cross a billion dollars,” said Mohammed Sohail, chief executive of Topline Securities, a brokerage based in Karachi, Pakistan. “Investors globally are looking at Pakistan positively, especially because of the gradual economic recovery over the last two years.”

Habib Bank has Pakistan’s largest deposit base and the most extensive network of branches. It has operations in 29 countries, according to the bank’s website. The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development bought a 51% stake in the bank when it was privatized in 2004.

Riaz Haq said...

The Citi Bank has managed to arrange $120 million financing from the US EXIM Bank and Islamic Development Bank for overhauling the engines of PIA aircraft by the General Electric Company.This has been disclosed in a meeting of the Citi Bank delegation headed by Country Officer Nadeem Lodhi with Finance Minister Ishaq Dar here on Wednesday.

During the meeting, the Citi Bank team informed the minister that it was after seven years that the US EXIM Bank had undertaken financing activity in Pakistan, which reflected a growing confidence of international institutions or foreign stakeholders in Pakistan’s improved economic stature.The amount, the minister was further told, would be utilised for the overhauling engines of PIA aircraft by the General Electric Company.$120-million-for-engine-overhaul-to-PIA

Riaz Haq said...

Federal Minister for Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafique on Saturday pointed out that Pakistan Railways requires at least 1,000 locomotives and 12 billion dollars to transform it into a best train service.

APP adds: The Pakistan Railways (PR) Saturday signed an agreement was with General Electric (GE) USA to procure 55 locomotives.

PR Director Procurement Ziauddin Ahmed Qureshi and Mr Ishfaq representative of General Electric of the United States signed the agreement here at Railways Headquarters.

Addressing a press conference Minister for Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafique who oversaw the signing of the agreement said today was a historic day for the Paksitan Railways as it was going to procure locomotives of 4,000 to 4,500 horse power from a company whose export profile was good.

In future also all procurements would be made from companies having good export profile and no compromise in this regard would be made he added.

He said that the PR was fulfilling its promise of procuring modern items as the GE was one of the best companies in the world.

Saad Rafique said out of 55 completely built up (CBUs) locomotives 23 to 24 would be used for the Sahiwal Coal Power project 10 for Bahawalpur project and the remaining would also be used for coal operation.

He said that the first shipment of the locomotives would arrive in 16 months. These locomotives he said remained operational more than their age and would return their price in three years.

Pakistan Railways was also focusing on manufacturing locomotives in Pakistan and for the purpose it would reach an agreement with a company giveing best offer for transfer of technology (TOT) in Rasalpur factory.

The minister said soon Eid operation would be announced. The Green Line train he said was running successfully with 100 per cent occupancy.

He said the PR wanted to add value to two to three trains in current fiscal year.
The minister said service structure would be made for employees in Grade 1 to 16 adding that companies would be invited through open advertisement for this purpose.

To a question he said that the PR had set its priorities and work would be carried out in all areas in steps.

PR Chief Executive Officer Javed Anwar and other officials were also present.,-$12-bn-can-turn-PR-into-best-service:-Rafique

Riaz Haq said...

State-owned airline Pakistan International Airlines’ (PIA) privatization plans have been postponed until mid-2016, following what the government described as “legal obstacles in finalizing the transaction structure.”

In 2014, the Pakistan government agreed to a sell off parts of various strategic state-owned assets, including power corporations and steelmakers as well as PIA. The move to divest corporations was a condition of a $6.7 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund made in 2013.

Pakistan Minister of State for Privatization Mohammad Zubair said at the time of the agreement that the sale of PIA would commence in mid-2015. “The process is absolutely on and financial advisers are performing their job, [working on] the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) sale,” he said.

In 2014, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave approval for the airline to take five new Boeing 777 aircraft, in addition to an agreement for 13 leased Airbus A320s, of which the fifth was delivered in June 2015.

“With newer versions of fuel-efficient aircraft, the employees will have to put in extra efforts for turning around the corporation [prior to sale],” PIA managing director Shahnawaz Rehman said.

But government intervention and factional delays have pushed the timeline back twice already, with the original deal for a restructuring prior to a 26% IPO sell-off still subject to internal opposition and political wrangling.

In the meantime, the airline is posting continuing losses—in the first quarter, it lost PKR2.1 billion ($206 million) taking its total losses to date to $2.1 billion.

Riaz Haq said...

#US First Lady Jackie Kennedy returned from #Pakistan to #US as a passenger on #Pakistan International Airline #PIA

The airline is now in debt and in crisis. It faces competition from private airlines. Staff unions are fighting government plans to sell off at least part of it.

On Feb. 2, two PIA employees were shot dead in Karachi during a demonstration against privatization. It's not clear who did it. The police used unusual force that day, including water cannons and teargas.

In a tent not far from the airport, a group of men mourns one of the two victims, a 57-year-old flight engineer named Saleem Akbar.

"When I received a call, I was really shocked and I don't understand what should I do," says his son, Fahad. "I never expected such things from the authorities. It was just a peaceful demonstration."

PIA workers nationwide responded to the killings by walking out en masse. For almost a week, PIA's fleet was grounded.

The strike was yet another reminder to Pakistanis of how far their airline's star has fallen. They used to boast about how PIA was the first Asian airline to operate jets and how it provided the planes that helped launch Emirates airline.

Ask Pakistanis what's gone wrong and they often reel off a list.

In part, says Khurram Husain of Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, it's "the inability of the government to manage what are essentially commercial enterprises. In part, political interference. In part, resistance to change from within due to excessive union activities and excessive bureaucratization."

Husain has been tracking the airline for years. He says at the heart of PIA's problems, there's a number.

"That number is the accumulated losses that the airline has managed to rack up by now," he says. "That number now stands at just under $3 billion, about half the national defense budget."

That huge $3 billion debt is paralyzing the airline, says Husain. "Just about the only thing that senior PIA management has been busy with is arranging for funds with which to make the next debt-service obligation," he says.

Pressure to overhaul PIA is coming from the International Monetary Fund, which has provided a big loan to Pakistan. The country's economy is blighted by many problems, from chronic power shortages to massive tax avoidance. The IMF thinks it's time to tackle loss-making state-run enterprises, like PIA.

Political commentator Hosain believes it's inevitable that the government will have to sell a big chunk of the airline. "PIA is hemorrhaging dollars," she says. "There's no way around it."

Many PIA staff hope that's wrong.

"The basic thing is the security of job. There is no security of job in privatization," says PIA accounts official Adnan Malik.

The Pakistani public may have fallen out of love with their airline. But Malik hasn't. "When you serve in airline, you feel love with them," he says. "You feel love for PIA. Yes. I love my country, I love PIA!" …

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Airways registered as #PIA subsidiary as #PPP backed employees union strike fails …

In order to improve the service standards of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), a subsidiary of the national flag carrier has been registered in the Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan as Pakistan Airways.

“Reference media queries, please note that Pakistan Airways has been registered as a premium service subsidiary of PIA,” PIA spokesperson Danyal Gillani said in a statement.

“This would help improve the service standard and image of the national airline,” the spokesperson added. The national flag carrier had earlier been transformed into a limited company instead of a corporation.

The development comes over a week after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to bring the PIA at par with the Qatar Airways. “Now that Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) workers’ strike has ended, we will work towards bringing it at par with Qatar Airways” the premier said while addressing Pakistani community in Qatar’s capital of Doha.

The premier’s statement came a day after scoring a victory against the unions of PIA. The Joint Action Committee of PIA Employees (JACPIAE) called off its months-long series of protests and a subsequent strike on Tuesday (February 9), after eight days, against the government’s decision to privatise the national carrier.

The strike and protest demonstrations saw cancellation of hundreds of flights, killing of two PIA employees and eight others receiving injuries during skirmishes with the security personnel.

Two killed, several injured as security forces open fire on protesting PIA workers

Once a source of pride for Pakistan, flights of the loss-making carrier are now frequently cancelled and many of its aircraft have been cannibalised to keep others flying.

PIA, one of the world’s leading airlines until the 1970s, now suffers from frequent cancellations and delays and has been involved in numerous controversies over the years, including the jailing of a drunk pilot in Britain in 2013.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Steel Privatization Stalled. No production. $3.5 billion debt. $5 million weekly loss via @Reuters

Once the producer of almost half the country's steel needs, state-owned Pakistan Steel Mills' (PSM) cavernous factory buildings on the outskirts of Karachi stand eerily still.

A 4.5 km-long (2.8 mile) conveyor belt that once carried coal from the nearby port is idle and blast furnaces rest silent. Birds build nests in Soviet-era equipment and stray dogs nap outside abandoned plants.

The company is for sale, but the government cannot find a buyer as it struggles to get privatizations back on track after a series of setbacks. A glance at PSM's finances may explain why.

The company has $3.5 billion in debt and accumulated losses, loses $5 million a week and has not produced steel at its 19,000-acre facility since June last year. That was when the national gas company cut power supplies, demanding payment of bills of over $340 million.

Like many Pakistani industrial firms, political meddling and competition from cheaper Chinese imports left PSM vulnerable.

They also undermine Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's promise to the International Monetary Fund to privatize PSM by March, in return for a $6.7 billion national bailout loan agreed in 2013.

More than 14,000 jobs are at risk, while the Pakistani economy needs industrial growth to provide employment for a growing population.

"Nine billion rupees ($86 million) are immediately needed to see the company through to June," company CEO Zaheer Ahmed Khan told Reuters at its sprawling premises.

"It's really sad, it's a national asset. We are a nuclear power but what does it say that we can't operate a small steel mill?"


The government has injected $2 billion into PSM since a failed selloff in 2006, but cannot invest more capital, Privatization Commission Chairman Mohammad Zubair said.

"The best option is to privatize so that private sector buyers inject capital to upgrade the plant and machinery, buy raw material and so on," he said.

PSM is one of several firms Pakistan wants to sell to revive loss-making entities that cost the government $5 billion a year.

But it has struggled to restructure bleeding companies, including PSM and Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), and get them in shape for potential buyers.

This month, Pakistan shelved plans to privatize power supply companies, and officials said Islamabad told the IMF it would not meet deadlines to sell PIA or PSM.

While the loss-making firms are a drain on Pakistan's resources - around an eighth of the government's fiscal revenues last year - few fear Pakistan will slide into economic crisis.

The IMF has continued to release installments of its 2013 bailout package despite missed targets, and Pakistan is exploring other sources of support, like ally China which plans to invest $46 billion in a new economic corridor.


Designed and funded by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, PSM was once the pride of the nation, showcasing a rapidly industrializing Pakistan with the means to produce a basic building block for the future.

Across the site, signs implore workers to believe steel will make Pakistan stronger. The firm's motto is "Yes, I can."

The facility has the capacity to expand to produce 3 million tonnes of cold and hot-rolled steel annually, against today's 1.1 million tonnes, CEO Khan said. At 3 million tonnes, PSM would become "very profitable".

Riaz Haq said...

China To Invest $8.5 Billion To Upgrade Pakistan's Rail Network, Build Gas Pipeline: Report

China will invest about USD 8.5 billion to upgrade Pakistan's rail network and to build a key gas pipeline with Iran to meet the country's energy needs, a media report said today.

The Central Development Working Party (CDWP), a Pakistan body to authorise major projects, yesterday approved USD 10 billion worth two projects. China will provide loans equivalent to 85 per cent (USD 8.5 billion) of the cost of each project.

The cost of upgrading of Pakistan Railways existing Mainline (ML-I) and establishment of a dry port near Havelian is USD 8.2 billion, which the Chinese government will finance with a USD 7 billion concessionary loan, The Express Tribune reported.

This project is part of USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) package and is covered under the CPEC Framework Agreement, signed during the April 2015 visit of Chinese president to Pakistan.

The estimated cost of Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG Terminal & Pipeline project, also cleared in principle, is USD 2 billion including USD 1.4 billion Chinese loan. This project is strategically important for Pakistan as it will eventually link the country's gas network with Iranian system.

"The exact costs of both the projects will be firmed up after finalising financing arrangements," CDWP Chairman and Minister for Planning, Ahsan Iqbal, said.

"After finalisation of the financing arrangements, both the projects will be taken to the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) with firmed up cost for final approval," he said.

At present, Pakistan Railways is picking up less than 4 per cent of the traffic volume of the country, which the government intends to increase to at least 20 per cent by 2025.

The project is planned to be completed in two phases in five years by 2021 on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode. Phase-I will be completed by December 2017 and Phase-II by the year 2021.

The CDWP also cleared Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG Terminal and Pipeline Project at an estimated cost of roughly USD 2 billion or Rs. 206.6 billion.

The Chinese Exim bank will provide 85 per cent of the financing under government-to-government mode. The EPC contract will be given to a Chinese company. The pipeline project will be included in the CPEC framework.

The key objective of this project is to overcome gas shortages by importing LNG and its transportation through Gwadar-Nawabshah pipeline.

In phase-I, the pipeline will follow the coastal pipeline corridor, which was formally established for the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. In phase-II, a 90-kilometer patch will be constructed from Gwadar to Pakistan-Iran border to tie the national network with Iranian system.

Riaz Haq said...

#ADB to loan #Pakistan $600m for structural reforms to boost performance and financial stability of PSUs … via @pfintl

“This assistance will give the government the ‘fiscal breathing space’ it needs to proceed with measures to create more sustainable business, delivering more efficient and cost-effective services to the Pakistani public, and will eventually free up public funds for vital social sector spending.”

At present, the Pakistan government owns 191 public sector enterprises employing around 420,000 workers. But according to the ADB, a fiscal consolidation drive to improve federal finances has prevented the government from making important reforms in this area, such as reducing pension liabilities.

ADB financing will be used to create a cost fund to “manage huge unfunded pensions and other retirement liabilities of workers”, which present a “serious threat” to Pakistan’s public sector, the bank said.

Power distribution companies and Pakistani Railways are also among the organisations that need “immediate financial support” to initiate reforms.

Pakistani Railways will receive support to strengthen auditing and accounting, and funding will also be used to improve the transparency of the public sector and strengthen corporate governance.

This funding is part of a coordinated donor packaged arranged by the Asian Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The programme consists of two batches of $300m and will run until 2018.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's international #airline PIA to add #Boeing, #Airbus jets for fleet upgrade, plans staff cuts via @Reuters

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is evaluating an order for wide-body Airbus (AIR.PA) and Boeing (BA.N) jets as it looks to upgrade its ageing fleet, an executive for the state-owned airline said on Tuesday.

"Boeing 777X would be a good option," the airline's executive director of human resources and works, Raheel Ahmed, told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Dubai, adding that PIA is also looking at the Airbus A330 and A350 models.

PIA would consider purchasing the aircraft directly from the manufacturer and financing the order through a sale and leaseback arrangement, when an airline sells a jet to a lessor who then leases it back. It would also consider a direct leasing agreement, known as a dry lease.

Ahmed did not say when PIA would order the jets or how many it could buy. It has a fleet of 38 narrow-body and wide-body Airbus and Boeing jets, with three A310s to be retired on Dec. 31, he added.

Ahmed also said PIA would cut its 18,000 workforce by between 3,000 and 3,500 employees by the end of 2017 as the Pakistan government looks to turn around the loss-making airline and sell-off a 49 percent stake.

However, PIA later said Ahmed's figures were incorrect, and no decision had as yet been taken on how many jobs would be cut or over what timeframe.

A meeting between Pakistan's Privatization Commission and PIA top management was also held on Tuesday, "to determine the best suitable restructuring model to make PIA into a viable entity," a senior government official who attended the meeting told Reuters.

The official said restructuring would be done in two phases, carving out non-essential units within three to six months "to attain a clean balance sheet," followed by the gradual carving out of other business units.

The airline would spin-off four "special business units" from January 2017, starting with its catering business and later its flight training, engineering and courier businesses.

The units are planned to operate independently of PIA with their own general managers and marketing teams. PIA would later look to sell a stake in the units if they are profitable.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan takes delivery of Erie-built #GE locomotives to haul 12,000 tons of #coal daily. #energy

"Over the next 10 years, the (Pakistan) government aims to increase the share of rail in transportation from 4 percent to 20 percent, which will help lower the costs and environmental impact of moving goods across the country," according to a statement from the state-owned railroad.

The majority of GE Transportation's Evolution locomotives - its most technologically advanced model - are built at its plant in Fort Worth, Texas.

The locomotives sold to Pakistan, however, are being built in Erie, where the company builds most of the locomotives it produces for foreign sale.

To mark the arrival of the new GE locomotives, more than 200 senior government officials, private sector partners and members of the media attended a ceremonial luncheon at the port, according to Pakistan Railways.

Building the locomotives has provided some much-needed work at the Erie plant at a time when new orders have been slow to arrive. Earlier this year, GE Transportation reduced the workforce at its local plant by 1,500 people because of a slowdown in the rail freight industry.

While much of that slowdown has been attributed to reduced reliance on coal, the new GE locomotives delivered to Pakistan will be used primarily to transport coal inside Pakistan.

Five locomotives are expected to haul coal daily, carrying 12,000 tons of freight.

Riaz Haq said...

New bus service giving Daewoo a tough time

More and more bus services in Pakistan are competing against Daewoo style of luxury services. With the decline of Railway services, bus travel has become the chief source of intercity travel in Pakistani. The transit market is becoming overly competitive in Pakistan with new companies offering more comfort and facilities opening at a fast pace all over the world. Al Halal Travels, a new Bus Terminal, in Faisalabad, built at an estimated cost of Rs.500 million, is an interesting new addition to this burgeoning expanding market in Pakistan.

This newly constructed terminal, with international standard facilities, is located at the main Sargodha Road, opposite Crescent Textile Mills, in an area that is often called, “Bolay di Chuggi” after a local saint. Three bus companies – Faisal Motors, Shuja Motors and Silk Line – are offering services from this terminal. Silk Line is affiliated with Al Halal Travels that owns and operates the terminal. Connecting Faislabad with Rawalpindi, Lahore and Multan this terminal is already offering luxury services to more than a thousand passengers daily.

Luxury services being offered are not only air-conditioned coaches and comfy realign chairs but a choice of snacks and movies and more importantly Wi-Fi. Providing internet in buses is the latest feature across Pakistan. Internet has now become a necessity in the world with over 140 million handsets across Pakistan among which nearly half are smartphones. Handheld devices are becoming one of the biggest sources of media and entertainment in the country. 65% of the Pakistani population is reportedly under the age of 30 so airplane style video services are now merely an entertainment fad for older generation.

Fast developing motorways are transforming lifestyle and travel dynamics across Pakistan – especially in Punjab. Buses from Faisalabad now reach Lahore in less than two hours and Rawalpindi in four. Multan, which at the moment is at a four hours bus distance, will be reachable in two and a half hours once the new motorway is complete and operational. Credit for the motorways will go to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government who first conceived the idea, and kick started the work on Lahore – Islamabad motorway in 1993.

The real idea behind the motorways was to inspire the nation that Pakistan, too, can compete with the rest of world when it comes to infrastructure development. The government’s idea of introducing a service provider like Daewoo into Pakistani transport system in 1997 lead to a revolution of its own kind. Today increasing number of indigenous service providers like Al Halal Travels is competing to provide services often better than Daewoo at affordable prices.

Riaz Haq said...

Bankability of the Transport Sector by Karandaaz

Executive Summary:

1. The Transport, Logistics and Communications (TLC) sector is estimated to have contributed 13.3% of GDP in 2016-17. Of this, more than 62% was contributed by the road transport sector. In 2014-15 the sector employed 3.1 million people.

2. Most traffic intensive routes are a) Karachi to Peshawar via Hyderabad-Multan-Faisalabad-Rawalpindi; b) Sukkur to Quetta; c) Karachi to Quetta via the RCD Highway; and d) N-5 National Highway segment of Multan-Lahore-Gujranwala-Rawalpindi.

3. Passengers and freight are the primary segments of road transport sector. The fastest growing freight segment is the delivery vans at 7.5% annually, while for the passenger segment it is motor cabs and taxis at 5.9% annually.

4. Road transport grew at an average rate of 6.2% annually between 1991 and 2016, faster than the average GDP growth rate 4.4% during this period. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is expected to accelerate transport sect or growth with construction of roads and other transport infrastructure.

5. Freight transport sector is highly lucrative with profit margins ranging from 21% for large trucks to 43% for rickshaws. Passenger transport sector is even more lucrative with 30% profit margin for wagons to 50% for luxury buses.

Riaz Haq said...

Passenger train service halted in #Pakistan till March 31. Pakistan #Railways operates 142 trains daily on its 1,885-km-long tracks to ferry some 700 million passengers every year. #Coronavirus fears had already reduced ridership. #COVID19 #lockdown

The Pakistan Railways on Tuesday announced that all passenger train services would be suspended till March 31 to curb the spread of coronavirus infections.

Taking effect from midnight, all passenger trains will remain suspended owing to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the country, while cargo trains will continue to function according to their schedule.

Passengers who have already booked seats will be accommodated in trains of their choice when the services resume, according to a statement issued by the Pakistan Railways.
In case tickets are unavailable, they will receive a full refund.

The move to suspend the services came after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s approval.

Earlier in the day, Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid told the media that the suspension of all passenger train services was on the cards but the final decision would be made by the prime minister.

He added that he had recommended to the prime minister to give a relief package to the railways and continue paying salaries of its employees while the services remained suspended.

On Saturday, the minister had announced the suspension of 42 trains by April 1 to restrict the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

The minister said trains would be suspended in phases, adding that the notification of the suspension would remain in effect till the first half of the holy month of Ramazan.

The trains suspended in the first and second phases included Khushhal Express, Akber Express, Sindh Express, Ravi Express, Shah Latif Express and Rohri Express. Jinnah Express, Bolan Express, Moinjo Daro Express, Thal Express, Marvi Express, Samman Shakir Express, Faisalabad Express, Musa Pak Express and Chenab Express.

The Pakistan Railways operates 142 trains on its 1,885-km-long tracks to ferry some 700 million passengers every year, which means that some 200,000 people travel by trains every day. However, because of the coronavirus spread, the number had declined.
“Due to the current situation the number has declined to 165,000 passengers per day,” the minister said.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #Airline With 14,000 Staff for 30 Planes to Cut Half Its Workforce. Even before #Covid restrictions, #PIA was banned from key markets including the #US and #Europe. And it missed out on peak travel periods like the annual #Hajj pilgrimage.

Even airlines in good financial health have been left reeling because of the coronavirus, which has caused dozens to collapse and thousands of job losses globally. In its latest outlook last week, the International Air Transport Association said carriers worldwide will lose about $48 billion in 2021 as virus flareups and mutations extend the timeline for a restart of global air travel.

PIA had 30 aircraft as of Sept. 30, including 12 Boeing Co. 777s and 11 Airbus SE A320s. Hussain didn’t specify what changes would be made to the fleet, which also includes ATR aircraft, but he said the size would be “kept under 30” and include more fuel-efficient planes. PIA will no longer serve destinations such as Tokyo and Manila, Hussain said.

Pakistan vowed to cut jobs and sell non-core assets after a series of bailouts, including one of 3.2 billion rupees in June so the airline could meet interest payments. About 2,000 employees have taken voluntary redundancy already, according to the airline. Meanwhile, non-core operations such as catering and engineering will be outsourced, said Hussain, a former central bank governor.

Other assets are also being assessed, including the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, which the airline acquired during its loftier days as a symbol of Pakistani prestige. The hotel was closed last year and may be sold or redeveloped.

Riaz Haq said...

China, Pakistan Agree to Launch $10 Billion Railroad Project
Two countries plan to upgrade line from Karachi to Peshawar
Pakistan officials have said they expect funding from China
By Faseeh Mangi

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif agreed in a meeting in Beijing to launch a high-speed rail project that could cost $9.85 billion, a move that comes as the world’s No. 2 economy moves to slow some of its lending due to growth concerns.

The two nations agreed to get started on the Main Line-1, according to a statement from Sharif’s office, which described it as “a project of strategic importance.”

That project involves upgrading a 1,163-mile, colonial-era track from Karachi to Peshawar to carry high-speed trains. Earlier this week, Pakistan formally approved the project, which has been in discussion for years, without saying where the funding would come from or providing technical details.

Officials in Pakistan have previously said they expected to get loans from China for the upgrade.

The US has in the past criticized China for using what it calls “debt diplomacy” to make developing nations more dependent on Beijing. Still, earlier this year China delayed a bailout for Pakistan as its debt soared, and it has been scaling back lending in Africa as its economy slows.

About 30% of Pakistan’s foreign debt is owed to China, including state-owned commercial banks, the International Monetary Fund said in a report in September.

In June, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its outlook on Pakistan to negative from stable, citing financial concerns.

See: Xi Kicks Off Third Term With Flurry of Diplomatic Activity

In their talks, Xi and Sharif agreed to finalize details on an inner-city rail line in Karachi. The Chinese leader also said his nation would provide 500 million yuan ($68.7 million) to Pakistan to help it rebuild after flooding over the summer that displaced more than half a million people.

Also Wednesday, the two countries’ central banks signed a memorandum of cooperation on a yuan clearing in Pakistan, the People’s Bank of China said in a statement. It didn’t give more details.

Sharif is wrapping up a two-day visit to Beijing. China is hosting a flurry of foreign leaders this week, as Xi kicks off a norm-busting third term during which he’s vowed to increase his nation’s global influence.

Vietnam’s Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong became the first foreign leader to meet Xi since the Chinese president removed rivals and installed loyalists at a leadership reshuffle last month.

Xi and his top officials are then expected to hold talks in the capital with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan. Later this month, he will likely travel to Indonesia and Thailand for major summits attended by global leaders including President Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan taps Chinese credit for railway upgrade despite debt crisis
Islamabad says $10bn revamp of colonial-era line is essential even as it faces risk of default and forex reserves plunge

Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s planning minister, said the ML1 upgrade was vital to keep trains running and an example of the transformative work that Chinese credit had made possible.

“If we do not undertake this project, in a couple of years Pakistan will lose its railway logistics,” Iqbal told the Financial Times.

“The whole railway system will break down, this main line will break down. It will be very risky to run commercial operations on this track. It is no longer a choice. It is an imperative.”


Iqbal, who oversees Pakistan’s involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s international infrastructure scheme, said it would take six to nine years to complete the ML1 upgrade. The work will include replacing track, modernising signalling, converting level crossings into underpasses or flyovers and building fences to stop cattle crossing the line.

The planning minister said the project would proceed in phases “to make it more manageable”, with an initial cost of $3bn. The loan from China would be repayable over 20 to 25 years and would be “concessional”, he said, without providing further details.

Chinese lending to Pakistan goes back years, part of an effort to forge economic and military ties that will help to counter their mutual rival India. The ML1 upgrade is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a BRI centrepiece with an estimated total cost of $60bn.

The CPEC also includes Chinese development of a deep-sea port at Gwadar in south-western Pakistan, among other projects. Beijing is separately supplying Pakistan’s military with eight submarines and advanced J-10 C fighter jets.

A western diplomat in Islamabad said that for such projects to have continued even as Beijing saw growing financial distress in BRI recipient countries pointed to the importance it put on ties with Pakistan.

“Even if the rest [of BRI] lags behind, China wants to stay the course with Pakistan,” the diplomat said, adding that the relationship had “important military aspects developed over the long term”.

The projects — and Chinese financing — have also stoked domestic tensions. Police in Gwadar last month imposed emergency measures and dismantled a protest camp that had obstructed operations at the port with demands, among others, for Chinese nationals to leave.

Projects such as ML1 have also fuelled analyst concerns over whether excessive Chinese lending is exacerbating strains on Pakistan’s precarious finances. Chinese state lenders are together among the largest creditors to Islamabad, accounting for about $30bn of its outstanding debt.

Sakib Sherani of advisory firm Macro Economic Insights said it was unfair to single out China’s role in Pakistan’s debt woes, with the largest repayments in the current financial year actually due to multilateral lenders.

But Chinese loans tend to carry higher interest rates than multilateral or other bilateral creditors, according to the AidData research lab at William & Mary college in the US. Chinese annual interest is typically 3-4 per cent compared with 1-2 per cent from OECD lenders, AidData said.

Even as it taps Beijing for the ML1 project, Pakistan is looking elsewhere for funds to help stabilise its shrinking reserves. The finance ministry is in talks with the IMF to secure the next tranche of a $7bn assistance programme, and has said it will approach “friendly” countries such as Saudi Arabia for more loans.

Sharif’s government is betting it can steady the economy in time for parliamentary elections that must be held before the end of this year.

Iqbal said he was confident the country would pull through. “Pakistan is facing economic [and] fiscal difficulties, but it is not in the range that it is a default economy yet. We are managing very prudently.”

Riaz Haq said...

ML-1, KCR (Karachi Circular Railway) upgrade projects to start in March

He (Ambassador Non Rong) recalled that under the CPEC, 192,000 jobs were created, 6000MW of electricity was generated, 510 km of highway was constructed and 886 km of transmission was set up, which laid a solid foundation for Pakistan’s socio-economic development. “In fact, Pakistan’s trade surplus of agricultural products is expected to exceed a record high of $1 billion in 2022,” the ambassador said.

The Chinese sources said the ML-1 is the largest infrastructure project of CPEC worth $6.86 billion. The project involves the up-gradation and dualization of ML-1 to increase the operating speed from the current 60 km/h and 105 km/h to a proposed 160 km/h. The project also involves the establishment of a dry port near Havelian. ML-1, the Karachi to Peshawar line, is one of four main railway lines in Pakistan, operated and maintained by Pakistan Railways. The line begins from Karachi City Station or Kiamari station and ends at Peshawar Cantonment Station. The total length of this railway line is 1,687 kilometers. There are 184 railway stations from Kiamari to Peshawar Cantonment on this line. The line serves as the main passenger and freight line of the country. 75 percent of the country’s cargo and passenger traffic uses the ML-1. The existing timeline for the completion of ML-1 extends to December 2024. Under the umbrella of this project, level crossing will be converted into flyovers or underpasses so that the speed can be increased by getting rid of the obstacles.

The project could not be started during the PTI government due to China’s concerns over debt repayment plan, the sources pointed out. ML-I railway line project is very important to achieve connectivity between Gwadar (Pakistan) and Kashgar (China) through a train track that will provide the easiest and safest way to transport oil between China and the Middle East, saving China travel costs. The railway line upgrade will provide faster travel facilities to the people of Pakistan and commercial benefits like bringing raw materials to the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and faster delivery of finished goods to remote areas of the country as well Gwadar port. Another great benefit is that coal will be delivered for fuel to the power plants through the railway track, which will also generate good revenue for the railways. Due to unnecessary delays, the cost of this historic project has increased. The Imran’s PTI government failed to convince the IMF and the Chinese government to start the project. Another reason for the increase is the recent floods in Pakistan, which has destroyed the railway lines of most parts of the country. As soon as the new government was formed in April, 2022, Pakistan’s Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal restarted the discussion with the Chinese authorities on revival of the project.

The revived KCR operation is intended to become an inter-regional public transit system in Karachi, with an aim to connect the city centre with several industrial and commercial districts within the city and the outlying localities. In May 2017, the then government approved Rs27.9 billion ($120 million) restoration package for the KCR. However, delays and disputes with the Sindh provincial government ultimately led to cancellation of the funding. KCR would be constructed with the cost of Rs294 billion and used by 500,000 passengers/day, which would increase to 1 million in later years. KCR will have 250 modern driverless electric bullet trains, which would run 17-hours a day throughout a week. The KCR project would be run by the Sindh government through Karachi Urban Transport Corporation (KUTC) and likely to be completed by 2025.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan plans to privatise its loss-making national carrier Pakistan International Airlines (PIAa.PSX), the government said on Monday, as the country also seeks to outsource its airport operations in line with an IMF deal.

The privatisation decision was taken at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Privatisation chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

The committee "after deliberation decided to include Pakistan International Airlines Co. Ltd in the list of active privatisation projects of the ongoing privatisation programme, following an amendment in the law by the Parliament," a finance ministry statement said.

The committee also backed the hiring of a financial adviser to process the transaction of Roosevelt Hotel, New York, an asset of the PIAInvestment Limited, it added.

Pakistan hopes to resume PIA flights to Britain in the next three months after services were suspended following a fake pilot scandal.

The PIA flights to Europe and the UK have been suspended since 2020 after the European Union's Aviation Safety Agency revoked the national carrier's authorisation to fly to the bloc following the pilot licence scandal.

The privatisation of a state-owned enterprise, the PIA, which has accumulated hundreds of billions of rupee in losses and arrears, comes after Pakistan agreed to fiscal discipline plans with the International Monetary Fund.

Pakistan secured a $3 billion IMF bailout in June.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad in Islamabad and Baranjot Kaur in Bengaluru Editing by David Goodman, Mark Potter and Alistair Bell