According to newspaper reports, the government has decided to allocate 1,500 acres of Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) land to set up an industrial park as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The steel mills, set up with the help of former USSR, is the jewel of the nation and an asset, but it has become a victim of political expediencies. Due to rise of centrifugal forces in the absence of a firm writ of the government, the asset has now turned into a liability, which consumes billions of rupees taxpayers’ money annually. Earlier during the Pakistan People’s Party government, an effort was made to sell it allegedly at throwaway prices, but the Supreme Court intervened and stopped the sale process. Now the government has decided to set up an industrial park and the prime minister has reportedly approved the allocation of land. However, there are several legal and constitutional liabilities which needed to be fulfilled before going ahead for the new venture. Reports suggest that the prime minister could take up the matter with the Privatization Commission. However, modalities are needed to be worked out and finalized. Earlier, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had promised with the International Monetary Fund that a new board of directors will be appointed for the mills in professional manners, but currently only four members of the board are on board out of 12.
The mills is the largest industrial complex of the country, but incurs billions of rupees losses despite earning a handsome profit annually. But corruption, mismanagement and lack of will are the biggest hurdles which prevent its conversion into a profit making entity. The reports suggest that losses and liabilities of the steel complex reached Rs 200 billion during five-year term of the Pakistan People’s Party government until 2013. The total liabilities reached Rs 415 billion by December last year. The losses are continuing without any let up and the money spent on the unit is money lost. The land mafia and corrupt elements within the government and political elite have always seen the precious land as an easy bait to grab it. However, in a mess of corruption, it is hoped that a clean and constitutional procedure will be adopted to set up the industrial park.
The government should reclaim the land grabbed by various private agencies and influential individuals who have no regard for the welfare of the nation. The economic corridor is a hope for the nation and this hope should not die down. The political interference should be immediately stopped in the mills.