The maiden meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Privatization was held at the Parliament House on Thursday under the chairmanship of Senator Shammin Afridi for a detailed briefing about the overall working and performance of the Ministry of Privatization and its attached departments.
The meeting was convened for the consideration of the bill titled ‘The Privatization Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ that had been referred by the House.
The Secretary of the Ministry of Privatization briefed the committee on the Organizational Structure of the Ministry, which is divided into the Privatization Division and the Privatization Commission and has been an independent organization since 2017.
The committee was apprised that 99 percent of the revenue generated by privatization is utilized by the government for the retirement of the federal government debt (90 percent) and for poverty alleviation (10 percent).
Senator Sabir Shah emphasized the monitoring and assessment of the process of privatization (strategic sale). In response to a question by Senator Sabir Shah, the officials of the ministry said that the transaction structure is approved by the federal cabinet.
It was also questioned whether a comparison between the market price and reference price takes place before the bidding. The ministry officials replied that world-class financial advisors are appointed for the evaluation of the entities.
The officials said that the privatization process is completely transparent and goes through the PC Board, the CCoP, and the cabinet for the approval of the reference price.
Senator Irfan Siddique asked about who initiates decisions about the privatization of entities and was told by the ministry officials that the initial proposals are received by the Cabinet Committee.
Senator Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar recommended making reforms on the process of privatization and said that the unutilized land is Pakistan’s asset and will be retrieved for its economic growth.
Senator Muhammad Qasim said that a stipulated time frame should be set from the time of the approval of the entity for privatization until the execution of sale to keep the upwards trajectory of the economy.
Senator Mian Raza Rabbani had serious reservations about the approval for the privatization of the institutes. He said that the approval of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) for privatization cannot be ignored by the law. He also asked about the decision that will prevail if a conflict of approval occurs between the Cabinet and the Council of Common Interest (CCI). The officials replied that the privatization process does not proceed if such conflicts occur.
Senator Mehmood Hassan put forward his recommendation for the preservation and protection of the assets of the country to thoroughly evaluate if an entity should be sold or put on lease.
The members of the committee requested the Chair for time to deliberate on the bill as they had received the copies of the bills late in the evening and had been unable to study the bill. The Chairman Committee deferred the bill for consideration in the upcoming meeting
The meeting was attended by Minister Mian Muhammad Soomro, Senator Anwar-ul-Haq, Mian Raza Rabbani, Rana Mahmood ul Hassan, Syed Muhammad Sabir Shah, Muhammad Qasim, Anwar Lal Dean, and Senator Molvi Faiz Muhammad. Seniors officials from the Privatization Division and Privatization Commission and Ministry of Law and Justice were also in attendance.