Pakistan to invite Chinese assistance for revival of steel mills

A security guard sits in front of a wall with signs and slogans at the operation building at the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) on the outskirts of Karachi Feb 8, 2016. (Reuters)
Updated 08 October 2019

Pakistan to invite Chinese assistance for revival of steel mills

  • PM Khan likely to discuss the plan with Chinese authorities during his current visit
  • Experts believe the mill may take three to four years to become operational again

KARACHI: As Pakistan seeks Chinese assistance to revive the loss-making mega-corporation, Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), officials and stakeholders believe it could take three to four years to bring its non-operational plants back to life.
Prime Minister Imran Khan left for Beijing on Monday to discuss the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and regional security issues with the Chinese leadership.
He is also expected to request Chinese authorities to help revive the steel mill that has remained nonfunctional since 2015 and bleeding Pakistan financially.
“Two months ago, our committee was briefed about the status of PSM and its revival plan. We were informed that some Russian and Chinese companies along with local groups were interested in bringing it back to life,” Sajid Hussain Turi, Chairman of National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Industries and Production, told Arab News on Monday. “The revival of Pakistan Steel Mills will be a welcoming step.”
The stakeholders expect the Chinese companies to bring enough expertise to revive the steel mills. “The Chinese showed a keen interest in rejuvenating the place in a meeting held a couple of months back with PSM board of directors,” Munir K. Bana, the board’s top official, told Arab News
Pakistan Steel Mills was constructed in 1973 under an agreement signed between the country’s administration and the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in 1971. The Soviets also agreed to provide technical and financial assistance for the construction work.
The megacorporation saw a decline in production between 2008 and 2015. It was finally shut down when the company failed to pay Rs20 billion of the gas bill.
“So far the accumulated losses of the steel mills have increased to about $11 billion due to the closure of plants and imports of steel products,” said Mumrez Khan, convener of PSM Stakeholders’ Group that comprises employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers, and contractors.
The country has been exploring various options to resolve the issue of Pakistan Steel Mills, including its privatization.
Recently a decision to put PSM on the privatization list was taken up in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet that was chaired by prime minister’s adviser on finance, Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh. However, it was later decided to revive the defunct entity, instead of privatizing it.
“The daily losses are estimated to be around Rs120 million due to the closure of plants,” Khan claimed. “About Rs80 billion of PSM Stakeholders’ Group are also with the mill. Our three-month salaries remain pending as well.”
Officials expect that the revival of the defunct steel mills would take about three to four years and billions of rupees since its plants desperately need replacement of machinery and equipment.
“In my personal view, the machinery will have to be replaced completely since it is beyond repair at this stage,” Bana commented.
Spread over an area of 18,600 acres with 10,390 acres for the main plant, Pakistan Steel Mills is located 40 kilometers from Karachi in the Port Qasim vicinity. The PSM had a production capacity of 1.1 million tons of steel which was expandable to 3 million tons per annum. The main PSM products included coke, pig iron, billets, cold-rolled sheets, hot-rolled sheets, and galvanized sheets.
 


Pakistan says hospitals have 'ample resources' against coronavirus while doctors sound alarm

Updated 30 May 2020

Pakistan says hospitals have 'ample resources' against coronavirus while doctors sound alarm

  • ‘Only 25 percent of Pakistan’s hospital assets currently engaged:’ PM’s health adviser
  • In last 24 hours, 78 people died of coronavirus in biggest single day tally in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, said in a media briefing on Saturday that Pakistan’s health care sector had ‘ample resources’ to deal with coronavirus while doctors sounded alarm in the country’s most populous province, Punjab.
Pakistan saw a record jump in daily fatalities and cases on Friday with 78 people reported to have died from the virus in 24 hours including four health care workers. The total number of infected cases in the country stands at over 68,000 people with a death count of 1,400 as of Saturday.
“The overall situation in the country is under control as 25 percent of the country’s assets in the health sector are being used currently. It may be that a few hospitals in big cities which have huge influx are facing problems, otherwise we have ample resources to deal with COVID-19 patients so far,” Mirza said.
The PM’s aide also stressed the need for following standard operating procedures and adopting social distancing to contain the spread of the virus.
“In view of growing number of coronavirus cases and deaths due to this disease, the government is left with no option except to declare wearing of masks a must for everyone at public places, especially mosques, markets, shopping malls, public transport, and other crowded places,” he added.
Additionally, a resource management system was being launched to inform the public about the availability of beds and ventilators in different hospitals, he continued.
But some doctors have refuted the government’s claims regarding the state of the health care sector.
Vice Chairman of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) in Punjab, Dr. Shoaib Tarrar, said hospitals in big cities were almost full due to a huge influx of patients during the last week.
“The system is going to collapse in the coming days due to a rise in the number of patients. At Holy Family Hospital Rawalpindi, we have only two beds available with oxygen facility. Our young doctors have informed us about similar situations in the whole of Punjab,” Dr. Tarrar told Arab News. 
Pakistan began relaxing its lockdown measures earlier this month, with shops, businesses and mosques opening up and hundreds of thousands thronging to the marketplaces in anticipation of Eid Al-Fitr last weekend. 
Dr. Javed Akram, Vice Chancellor of University of Health Sciences Lahore, said the government should focus more on capacity building at health facilities to deal with the surge in the number of COVID-19 patients.
“It all depends upon the peak of COVID-19 in Pakistan as it is very difficult to estimate when we will see its peak,” Dr. Akram told Arab News. 
“The government is taking a lot of measures but this is such a huge challenge that the whole world’s health systems have collapsed while dealing with it,” he said, and added that currently, the health system was coping with demand.
But he warned that if the public’s response to coronavirus containment efforts remained lax, there would be a greater surge. 
“Then we will see more influx which will compromise our health system,” he said.