Amid economic crisis, Pakistan forced to outsource Islamabad International Airport

A cash-starved Pakistan government, unable to run operations at the Islamabad International Airport (IIA), has decided to outsource the duty, according to a report in Dawn. 

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Saturday chaired a meeting of the steering committee and directed the stakeholders to finalise the formalities of outsourcing the operations by August 12, a day before the current government ends its tenure. 

During the meeting, World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), the transaction adviser for the outsourcing, briefed about the progress made. It was also agreed to fast-track the airport’s outsourcing to improve the delivery of services, in line with best industry practices.

The Shehbaz Sharif government, despite receiving greenlight for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package, is staring at a bleak economic future with forex reserves plummeting.

Outsourcing the airport’s operations is a way to cut flab and keep the economy in stable condition. 

Notably, the Econ­omic Coordination Comm­ittee on March 31 decided to start a 25-year outsourcing of operations and land assets at three major airports in the country viz. Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

“IFC gave a presentation to the committee which took decisions as to the future roadmap for moving forward for outsourcing of the first airport in order to improve service delivery and match best international practices,” said an ambiguous brief public statement after the meeting.

However, last month, it was decided to restrict the outsourcing of airport operations to a foreign entity to only IIA in the first phase. Others will be outsourced in due course with a subsequent approval process.

“The amendments are being made to segregate the functions of the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority, PIA and Airports Security Force. The objective is to eliminate overlapping responsibilities of these organisations by enacting ordinances,” the publication noted. 

Over the last couple of years, PIA has been red-faced after being suspended for controversies regarding pilot degrees and aircraft safety standards. The government is attempting to wipe the slate clean and give a fresh start to the airline. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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