US Export-Import Bank would provide $55 million for refurnishing of PIA Boeing aircraft engines by American company General Electric.

This represents EXIM’s largest financing activity in Pakistan since 2006 and the refurbishment will enhance overall engine performance of PIA’s Boeing 777 fleet.

“Today, GE and its joint venture engines power more than 60 per cent of PIA’s aircraft, and this deal to refurbish many of those engines will power PIA well into the future”, US Ambassador Richard Olson said at reception he hosted to commemorate the deal here on Wednesday.

Ambassador Richard Olson said partnerships such as these go a long way towards connecting Pakistan with the rest of the world.  The reception was attended, among others, by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar; Chairman Board of Investment, Dr. Miftah Ismail; Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, retired Captain Shujaat Azeem; Vice Chairman GE, John G Rice; and Chairman Pakistan International Airlines, Nasser Jaffer. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had earlier said that PIA had been in very bad shape but efforts were being made to revive it. He had hinted that the privatisation of 26 per cent shares of PIA was the only solution to revive the PIA; however, he said the airline’s employees should not be worried as they would be taken care of.

Last year, PIA had received poor response from public relations and media management firms for its plan to improve its image by hiring a PR firm.

Hardly any reputed PR firm was interested in taking part in the bidding process, considering that PIA was a ‘dead product’ to sell, an official of a well-known PR company had told a daily.

The management of my firm initially thought about participating in the bidding, but decided against it because it could not find enough positives about PIA, he said.

In a related development, the US has also announced an additional $27 million in food assistance for the Temporarily Displaced People in Pakistan this year through the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).   The announcement was made by Greg Gottlieb, Director of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Pakistan Mission, saying the additional funding, which supplements the $34 million that the United States has already provided in food assistance to Pakistan since October 2014.  “This money will help buy food for struggling families, especially those from the FATA region. For many, the food that the United States provides serves as their main source of food supply,” Gottlieb said.  “Food support is a foundation upon which people can rebuild their livelihoods and communities.”

During the event, USAID Pakistan Mission Director Gottlieb, WFP Regional Director for Asia David Kaatrud, and Ministry of National Food Security and Research Coordinator Malik Zahoor also inaugurated a photo exhibit which highlights the collaboration by the U.S. government, the Government of Pakistan, and WFP to feed the country’s vulnerable populations, including the 1.6 million temporarily displaced people from FATA. “The strategic partnership between the United States, WFP, and the Government of Pakistan has improved the lives of millions of people in the most vulnerable areas affected by natural and human-induced disasters across the country,” WFP Regional Director Kaatrud said.

 “The generous funding from USAID has provided over the years has improved food and nutrition security, livelihoods, resilience and response capability to sudden-onset emergencies which in turn contribute to the peace and stability as well as economic development in Pakistan.”

The food assistance provided by the United States through WFP includes donations of flour, oil, salt, and beans.  Since 2010, the United States has provided nearly $700 million in food assistance to the people of Pakistan.