Given the recent news of the permanent closure of The Roosevelt Hotel from October 31, the government, through PTI lawmaker Muhammad Bashir Khan, has announced its plans to sell shares of the prized Manhattan property. However, considering the history of backpedalling surrounding the future of the hotel, one must take this declaration with a pinch of salt. It has been years since various governments have been trying to come to a conclusive decision as to whether selling, leasing or maintaining the status quo would be strategically sound—all to no avail. This indecision has surrounded the public in confusion, leading to a strong demand for clarity on the matter.

Talks about the sale of the hotel were once initiated on the basis of rescuing the deteriorating, unprofitable and debt infested PIA, back in 2004. Then, much more recently, government intentions hovered between securing a long-term lease for the hotel and complete privatisation—both of which were scrapped after the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP) proposed that the hotel be run under a joint venture with the private sector. How this venture was to function still remains to be addressed.

Ignoring the certain degree of whiplash induced, the current refocus on selling shares all the while retaining management opens up a whole new plethora of questions and doubts. Considering that all government assets are technically assets of the state, disabling the government to list down their shares for purchase publicly, going about the process of divesting becomes perplexing. Similarly, the Roosevelt Hotel is one of the most profitable national assets—evident by the fact that it was able to generate around $5 million in profits for PIA annually. As such, why would selling be in the interest of the country? There is a dire need for cogent reasons to be given on this front.

Keeping all things aside, if this route is one that has to be taken, the government needs to ensure that transparency in reason and action is present for the sake of public contentment.