PIA the test case
Once again the PIA management has secured the Rs17 billion bailout package from the government. The Economic Coordination Committee's decision is another dose of oxygen for the ailing national flag carrier. In addition to Rs17 billion bailout package, the Finance Ministry has set aside Rs18 billion to pay interests on past loans of the PIA in this fiscal year alone.
The total liabilities of the airline have crossed the Rs400bn mark as of August this year, according to the aviation secretary, and its running losses each month are almost Rs2bn. Next to these figures, the Rs17bn disbursement approved by the latest decision of the Economic Coordination Committee is peanuts, to put it mildly.
Giving the quarterly bailout to the ailing airlines is not unique but .it is surprising that the PTI government like its predecessor has also thrown good money without saeeking any revasmp plan from the new PIA chief. PM Imran has promised to restructure the loss-making enterprises but now being in charge of the Aviation Division has chosen to sign off the Rs17 billion cheque without first approving a restructuring plan.
The PM choice Air Marshal Arshad Malik as the CEO of the PIA is contrary to the party's stance to appoint professionals to head the state-owned enterprises. The Air Marshal does not have the expertise to run a commercial airline. There is a dire need that PIA board should be revamped with professionals having strong background in the aviation industry as the bankers, retired bureaucrats and industrialists cannot revive the airlines. Instead of bailout we need a debt management strategy for increase in revenues. We should end the history of PIA's mounting losses, skyrocketing debt, and repeated bailouts from the governments. The new government which campaigned on the promise of change, and the finance minister has repeatedly been saying that the state-owned enterprises can be turned around organically, without any strategic transfer of shareholding. In fact PIA is a test case for the government. Without a plan, and without appointments of people with the right experience, whose track record inspires confidence, the dream of turnaround will not be realized. There are reports that the CEO has submitted a business plan to the Economic Coordination Committee to turn PIA around but it is also necessary that more details should be shared with the think tanks and the media for a wider, comprehensive discussion so that something good may come to the fore. Moreover, along with business plan PIA also needs ' plan B'. It is necessary to know and who are the people involved in its drafting? How long was it worked upon before being forwarded to the ECC. Tackling the deep-seated problems of the state owned enterprises is one of the biggest challenges facing this government and we hope that the new administration of the national carrier will leave no stone unturned to make this enterprise a success and the confidence of the public is resorted on the carrier with a moto of ba kamal log and lajwab service.