ISLAMABAD: The government is likely to outsource major airports on competitive bidding basis instead of to any specific country, well-informed sources told Business Recorder..

On Thursday, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce & Investment, Abdul Razak Dawood chaired the first meeting of the committee formed by the cabinet on outsourcing of major airports of Pakistan. The meeting was attended by the Advisor to PM on Parliamentary Affairs, Zaheer-ud-din Babar Awan, SAPM on OP&HRD, Sayed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari, and Secretary Aviation Division. The Chairman Board of Investment, Atif Riaz Bokhari, also attended the meeting through a video link.

Last month, during a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan enquired about the fate of the offer made by Qatar for participating in the outsourcing effort. It was explained that the Qatari side was not interested in airport operations and instead desired shareholding in all of the three major airports. So far no serious offer had been made by the Qatari side.

One of the members pointed out that during Prime Minister's visit to Qatar, the hosts had expressed genuine investment interest in Pakistan's major airports, however, necessary efforts were not made in that direction. The cabinet has directed the committee to finalize recommendations to outsource major airports by June 30, 2020.

The committee deliberated upon two aspects of airport operations namely regulatory part of Civil Aviation Authority and the commercial part of operations. During the meeting, various options, along with the associated legal aspects, were discussed in detail, keeping in view the segregation of regulatory and commercial sides.

Representatives from the Privatization Commission were also consulted during the meeting on their perspective regarding the available options for outsourcing of airport operations.

Referring to the importance of outsourcing of commercial operations of airports in Pakistan, Razak Dawood said that there is a big potential in the airport-related commercial activities, which can be exploited by bringing in knowledge and experience from major international experts in the aviation industry. He added that the gap in non-aeronautical activities at major airports of Pakistan, including duty free shops, restaurants and commercial outlets, can be efficiently filled by such expertise, thereby bringing our airports at par with leading airports globally.

Razak Dawood also said that interest was being shown by different global investors in Pakistani airports. He underscored that international best practices would be ensured in overall operation and management of various activities by bringing in international investors and generating overall goodwill of Pakistan among various stakeholders as well as in the aviation industry around the world.

Underlining the significance of bringing in foreign investment, Razak Dawood said that the foreign direct investment always acts as a catalyst to socio-economic development in the country, as it results in creating thousands of jobs in the country. He further said that the move would restore the confidence of private sector of Pakistan as well, which, in turn, will also invest in airport related industry

After deliberations, the Committee decided to meet again after one week to finalize proposals for the Cabinet.

The sources said, the government will approach the Qatari government to remind it about previous commitments at high level meetings. The committee will also recommend different options to outsource airports and segregation of operational and regulatory functions.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020