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Finance Ministry to explain policy on privatization of Roosevelt Hotel, New York, in National Assembly today

Finance Ministry to explain policy on privatization of Roosevelt Hotel, New York, in National Assembly today

ISLAMABAD: Finance Ministry is likely to explain government’s policy regarding privatization of Roosevelt Hotel of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), New York, United States of America today (Wednesday) before the National Assembly.

In the absence of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Parliamentary Secretary Finance Rana Afzal Khan will respond to supplementary questions asked by the members of the Lower House of the Parliament. Finance Minister has flown to Japan on a three-day official visit.

The Roosevelt Hotel is at Madison Avenue and 45th Street in midtown Manhattan, named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, the New York City hotel was opened on September 1924 and was closed in 1995 and reopened in 1997 after a $65-million extensive renovation. In the beginning of 1979, the hotel was leased by the Pakistan International Airlines through its investment arm PIA Investments Ltd.,with an option to purchase the building after 20 years. Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia was one of the investors in the 1979 deal.

As per order of the day for today’s session, five members hailing from former ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) namely Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho, Dr. Nafisa Shah, Belum Hasnain, Suraiya Jatoi, and Mir Munawar Ali Talpur have raised the issue of privatization of said hotel through a calling attention notice.

In their calling attention notice, they have invited attention of the Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization to a matter of urgent public importance regarding sale of Roosevelt Hotel of PIA in New York, causing grave concern amongst the public.

As per rules of the business of the National Assembly, speaker asks one member out all the movers of the calling attention notice to read out the calling notice along with his supplementary question. The mover complies and then either Federal Minister, Minister of State, Parliamentary Secretary related to concerned ministry or division or even the Chief Whip responds on behalf of the government responds to explain the matter before the House.

Then all the movers are allowed to ask one question each from the responding authority, however, normally, members tend to ask more than one question as well as deliver a speech on the subject.

As per information available with this scribe in 1999, PIA exercised their option and bought the hotel for $36.5 million, after a legal battle with owner Paul Milstein, who claimed it was worth much more. In 2005, PIA bought out its Saudi partner in a deal that included the prince’s share in Hôtel Scribe in Paris in exchange for $40 million and PIA’s share of the Riyadh Minhal Hotel (a Holiday Inn located on property owned by the prince). PIA has since controlled 99 percent interest in the hotel, while the Saudis have only 1 percent.

Moreover, after a major $65 million renovation, in July 2007 PIA announced that it was putting the hotel up for sale. The increasing profitability of the hotel, at the same time as the airline itself started to incur massive losses, resulted in the sale being abandoned. On January 1, 2011 The Roosevelt Hotel’s General Manager stated the hotel is once again undergoing extensive renovations but will remain open during the process.

As per order of the day for today’s session of the Lower House of the Parliament, any concerned one either Minster for State for Finance, Parliamentary Secretary Finance or Chief Whip will also lay the Report on 1st Biannual Monitoring on the Implementation of NFC Award (July-December, 2013) as required by clause (3B) of Article 160 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan before the National Assembly.