PM Shehbaz announces full-scale privatisation of state-owned enterprises

In a significant move towards economic reform, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declared the privatisation of all state-owned enterprises (SOEs), excluding strategic entities, during a meeting on Tuesday. This decision expands upon previous plans which only aimed at privatising loss-making state firms.

Chairing the review meeting, the prime minister granted approval for the privatisation of both profitable and loss-making SOEs, emphasising the importance of fostering a business and investment-friendly environment. He directed federal ministries to cooperate with the Privatisation Commission to facilitate the process.

Transparency was highlighted as a priority, with the premier ordering the televised broadcast of the privatisation proceedings for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), including the bidding process. Following this directive, the privatisation of other institutions will also be aired live.

A detailed roadmap for the Privatisation Program 2024-2029 was presented during the meeting, highlighting progress made towards privatising SOEs. Notably, the pre-qualification process for PIA’s privatisation is set to conclude by month-end, and the privatisation of power distribution companies has been incorporated into the programme.

To expedite the sell-off process, a pre-qualified panel of experts will be appointed within the Privatisation Commission. Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb reiterated the government’s commitment to a broad privatisation strategy, dismissing the concept of ‘strategic’ SOEs during a pre-budget conference in Lahore. He emphasised the government’s intention to tax retailers.

Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar had previously announced the government’s plan to limit its business scope to strategic and essential SOEs, with a focus on reducing their number after careful examination. However, Aurangzeb argued against the notion of strategic SOEs, stressing the need for privatisation to drive economic growth.

Addressing concerns about foreign involvement in SOE privatisation, the minister emphasised that both local and foreign investors are participating in the bidding process. He emphasised the crucial role of the private sector in steering the country out of economic challenges.

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