Pakistan Steel Mills will not be privatised and the government will provide full assistance to make it a profitable entity, federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira proclaimed on Wednesday. He was addressing during a ”dowry grant” cheque distribution ceremony. Highlighting Pakistan Steel Mills” dismal financial condition, he said that although the mill was facing the toughest time in its history, privatising this national asset made no sense.
“The government is aware of problems faced by Pakistan Steel Mills. It is ready to provide all possible financial support (helping the mills) to extricate itself from the current crisis,” he said. According to him, it was the government”s responsibility to help out Pakistan Steel.
“I categorically reject all reports regarding privatisation of Pakistan Steel. There is even no plan to run it under a public-private partnership,” the federal minister said in an emphatic manner. He said that the government would thwart all conspiracies to sell or privatise the Pakistan Steel, adding that the public sector entity would soon become a viable and profitable institution with the support of its workers.
“Although, PSM is currently facing losses running into billions of rupees, but we are confident that these losses will soon be recouped,” the minister said. PSM”s economic affairs would soon make a turnaround with the support of the government and a practical business plan, which had already been approved by the prime minister for the revival of this national asset, Kaira said.
Boosting production was the only way to stop the mill”s privatisation, he said, adding that workers of the steel mill should step forward and work hard for the survival of Pakistan Steel Mill. “We have appointed a competent chief executive officer at mills who will make it a profitable entity with better policies,” he said.
Referring to the payment of the remainder of the bailout package for PSM, Kaira assured that he would take up this issue with the Primer Minister and President for the early release of funds. “We know that Pakistan Steel urgently needs funds for procuring raw material…I will personally make efforts for the timely release of pending funds,” he said.
Citing the approval of the bailout package, he reiterated that the federal government had no plan to privatise the Pakistan Steel. The minister said that despite facing crisis, the government had regularised nearly 5,000 workers at Pakistan Steel, adding that it was proof enough that PPP had always protected workers” rights. “We want to hand over all public sector entities to their workers…If PSM becomes profitable, workers will have a significant percentage of its ownership,” he announced.
Talking about government performance, the information minister said that when the PPP-led coalition government had come into power in 2008, the country was facing serious political and economic challenges. “Inflation was on higher side, power crisis had peaked, unemployment was surging and most food items were being imported to cater domestic demand,” he maintained.
In addition to all this, the country was also facing serious security issues, he said, adding that several areas were even occupied by Taliban. Now, he said, the situation was different as Pakistan”s flag had again been hoisted in Swat and elsewhere in the country and the national economy was performing well. “Five years ago, despite being an agricultural country, we were importing millions of tons of wheat, sugar and pulses. But now, the situation is totally different…the country has surpluses of wheat, sugar, rice and other commodities,” he said.
Referring to the energy crisis, Kaira said that over the past few years, the energy situation had improved, but the demand was still higher than production. According to him, the domestic energy demand was increasing by up to 1,400 megawatts every year. Talking on the political issues, he said that the PPP would sweep in the next general elections as it had delivered to the nation in real terms.
“The PML-N is a party of just one province…It has no base in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The PML-N has adopted a discriminatory attitude with the people of Southern Punjab, who had been forced to demand a separate province,” Kaira said. The federal information minister was accompanied by Federal Minister of State for Water and Power Tasneem Ahmed Qureshi, CEO of Pakistan Steel Major-General Muhammad Javed H.I. (M) (retired) and the chief of Pakistan Steel Peoples Workers Union Shamshad Qureshi.