Islamabad Airport's 15-year outsourcing: Aviation minister

Islamabad Airport’s 15-year outsourcing: Aviation minister

Friday, Aviation Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique informed the National Assembly that the Islamabad Airport will be contracted out for 15 years.

“Neither the navigational services nor the runway operations will be contracted out. “The CAA will continue to do so,” he said on the House floor. “The rest will be outsourced.”

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The government’s consultant on the matter is the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank, he added.

In March, the finance ministry reported that efforts to outsource airports had begun. The government announced at the end of last month that it was currently seeking to outsource only the Islamabad Airport. The Civil Aviation Authority informed a NA panel of outsourcing plans last week.

Today, the minister informed the house that “twelve to thirteen companies have expressed interest, and there will be competitive bidding.” He assured the legislators that all public procurement regulations are being strictly adhered to. He stated, “We are proceeding in accordance with the private-public partnership authority’s rules.”

“This will be the first airport in Pakistan that we outsource. It will implement the finest international practices,” the PML-N leader said, adding that Lahore and Karachi’s airports will then be outsourced.

“The entire globe has done this. We must choose whether to remain in the stone age.”

He stated that the finest airport management practices in the world are provided by private operators.

“In our neighboring country India, approximately eight airports have delegated their operations. Similarly, both the airports in Istanbul and Madinah are delegated. There are numerous instances.”

He stated that outsourcing “absolutely does not imply” that the airport will be sold or mortgaged or that anyone will lose their employment. “I have repeatedly stated this, and now I am stating it on the floor of the house: no employee will be laid off at Islamabad Airport, which the government wishes to outsource and towards which we are working. Everyone will have job security and will be paid according to the law.

PIA privatization
Rafique argued for the privatization of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national air line. “My colleagues know that I opposed privatization. But even I have realized that if PIA’s current deficit of Rs80 billion remains unchanged, it will expand to Rs259 billion by 2030.”

“Can Pakistan afford this?” he asked. No, it cannot be done. What should be done then? South African Airlines and Air India’s actions. Tata ordered 450 brand-new aircraft for Air India. The government cannot manage it. The state can only assure that no PIA employee is rendered unemployed.”

According to the minister, a holding company will be established for PIA, whose liabilities are Rs742 billion. “Billions of dollars must be invested. You have between 27 and 28 operational aircraft. You cannot compete with the potent Gulf airlines,” he said, warning that if PIA is not restructured within the next one to one and a half years, it will likely close.

“We are taking this course of action. The next government will see this through to completion. All employee liberties must be safeguarded. No one should be permitted to politicize this issue. It can be lucrative if the private sector participates. It should be merit-based.”

Return of PIA flights to the UK
The aviation minister also disclosed that the last remaining “roadblock” to resuming flights to the United Kingdom had been removed following the passage of “historic” legislation late last night.

In the next three months, flights to the United Kingdom will recommence, Rafique said, criticizing his predecessor Ghulam Sarwar Khan’s “foolish statements that cost the country Rs70 billion.”

“This is excellent news for Pakistanis living abroad. Within the next three months, flights to the United Kingdom will resume. After that, flights to Europe and the United States will resume.”

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