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Revival of the Steel Mill

The best course of action is to repair the Mill, and utilis­e servic­es of Russia­n-traine­d engine­ers to restor­e it

KARACHI: This refers to your editorial “Another roadblock for PSM” (October 23). Valid questions have been raised against decision-makers adopting a unique method of disposal of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) land by bartering it with the SSGC to clear the former’s pending bills of over Rs37 billion. It was in March 2006 when 75 per cent of shares of the PSM were sold to an Al Tuwairqui-led consortium for a partial sum of Rs21.68 billion plus 4,500 out of 19,000 acres of land. Thankfully, the Supreme Court intervened and the valuable asset was saved in time. It is true that the PSM carried a bad reputation due to massive corruption and gross mismanagement, but it is the only integrated plant in the country that can take care of our steel requirements and has strategic importance in Pakistan’s economy and national defence. It is surprising to note that its privatisation is being undertaken at a time when the government is planning a large number of projects that require huge quantities of steel.

The transfer of land to the SSGC is simply a stupid idea; the plant can still be revived. Someone must explain why the Russian offer of $300 million to repair the ailing plant was turned down. It must be put on record that the PSM, with 23,000 employees, generated a profit with 85 per cent production capacity due to good management and work discipline. Its sale or privatisation is not in the national interest. The government’s liberalisation policies have certainly brought great economic changes. The pursuit of the privatisation agenda has reduced direct and indirect powers of the patronage enjoyed by the state. However, there is no wisdom in throwing away our gold mines for peanuts. The land of the PSM alone costs over Rs100 billion, and there is plenty of land that is yet to be utilised. The best course of action is to repair the Mill, and call young Russian-trained engineers and utilise their services to restore the nation’s pride. When our neighbour can manage steel mills in both the public and private sectors, why can’t we? The time has come to give second thoughts to the privatisation policy, especially for assets that are strategic and important from the defence point of view.

Lt Colonel (retd) Mukhtar Ahmed Butt

Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2015.

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