ISLAMABAD             -        The business community on Wednesday hailed government’s decision to run Pakistan Steel Mills on public private partnership and termed that public-private partnership is key to economic turnaround in the country especially in steel sector.  Talking to a delegation of steel traders led by Barrister Mian Rehman Aziz, former zonal chairman FPCCI Punjab, President elect SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry and United Business Group (UBG) Chairman Iftikhar Ali Malik said privatization is the need of the hour.

The role of government should be limited to prudent regulations and deepening of reforms, he added.  He said the total losses and liabilities of the mills have gone beyond Rs500 billion, besides about $2.5 billion in foreign exchange loss per annum to the country because of import of steel that should have been produced at the PSM. He said only through public-private partnership, PSM had the potential of becoming a profitable enterprise given its ideal location, market and facilities.

Iftikhar Malik said almost 110 million citizens of our country are below the age of 25 years. We are adding 3 million new workforces every year. To absorb these workers we need to grow at 10 percent per year. At current projected dismal growth we would be adding two million unemployed youth every year, he added.

It is obvious that if the working age youth is not gainfully employed they would move towards negative activities, he remarked. He said our public sector development programmes are less than three percent of our GDP, while in order to upgrade the infrastructure to desired level we need annual investment of 10 percent of our GDP.

“This would come from the private sector only by attracting both local and foreign investors. Korea, Japan and China are successful examples of public-private partnerships in infrastructure,” he added. Iftikhar Malik also urged the national political parties including Pakistan Peoples Party, MQM stop opposing the government on the issue of laying off PSM employees as this is not in the national interest of the country and the government had been spending Rs700 million monthly to pay the Mills’ employees’ salaries and a total of Rs35 billion has been spent since 2015, when the PML-N was in power. Appreciating Prime Minister Imran Khan’s economic vision in this regard, he said this is really appreciable that the government was changing its role from being owner and operator to owner-and-policy maker and the PSM a “white elephant” that the country needs to get rid of, especially at a time when the country’s economic situation is worsening.

He further said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s role against coronavirus pandemic is also appreciable as the government was making all-out efforts to deal with the deadly virus.

He also urged all segments of the society to come forward and play their role in containing the spread of novel coronavirus. He said the post-corona era would be challenging too for Pakistan, but opportunities would also be available for its economy. Mian Rehman Aziz said that “Pakistan can give a quantum jump to its exports once the circumstances came to normal, if the private sector keeps close contacts in Central Asian states, Africa and South America and the government support export-oriented industry through resolving their issues so that it can grab the opportunities,” he added.