When it comes to deal with institutions like Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and power companies, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) government is no different than the political parties that have ruled the country. Like the previous regimes, PTI has also approved a bailout package for PIA, which will ensure the “smooth operations” of the airline. What we know well is that bailing these institutions out every time is not a sustainable solution at all.

There are some structural problems in the corporate culture of the national airline service that need to be addressed before anything else. Until and unless these structural and operational issues are not addressed, no bailout package will help PIA in getting out of the perpetual crisis it falls into frequently.

Some of these issues can be solved if the government shows a strong will. The most important of all the steps to take is downsizing. According to one source, somewhere between 400 and 500 employees per aircraft are working in PIA. Such a high ratio per aircraft is nowhere else in the world. Note that the globally accepted figure of employees per aircraft is 196.

The argument that fuel prices made things worse for the operations of the national airline becomes secondary. If the ratio of employees per aircraft is brought down to the level of some other countries airlines, the hike in oil prices will not halt the operations. Another issue is nepotism: a defining norm of the state-owned enterprises.

PTI is a believer in sustainable solutions as it maintains. It should have a plan for the revival of the national airline. However, no one from the ruling party, it seems so, has any idea of how to bring back the PIA from the current nosedive. Instead of taking some harsh steps necessary for the revival of the state-owned enterprise, the government has chosen the easy way out of awarding a bailout package.

However, this “easy way out” may prove a thorn in the foot for the government, as the state is already in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package to get out of the balance of payment crisis. One of the first conditions that IMF lays down before granting any bailout package is its stress on the privatisation of loss incurring entities. If the state wants to save PIA from privatisation, it needs to take some harsh measures in its structure and operations. Otherwise, the day will come soon when the government will have no other option but to privatise the airline.