Saudis high potential investors for Pakistan privatization bid 

This photograph taken on April 13, 2016, shows a general view of the dockside at the port of Gwadar, some 700kms west of Karachi. (AFP/File)
Updated 18 November 2019

Saudis high potential investors for Pakistan privatization bid 

  • Government advertised privatization of two power plants, expecting to raise $2 bn
  • Plants were set up from a development fund with $1.5 bn gifted by former Saudi King Abdullah 

KARACHI: Pakistan has invited Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the privatization of two Re-Gasified Liquefied Natural Gas (RLNG) based power plants, currently managed by the National Power Parks Management Company (NPPMCL), according to an advertisement uploaded on the Pakistan Privatization Commission website on Sunday.

The plants were built with funds used from a development fund set up in 2013, with $1.5 billion gifted by then Saudi King Abdullah. Now, Pakistan expects to generate around $2 billion from the sell-of
The commission has drawn up a list of 17 state-owned entities for privatization and has sought official EOI from potential investors for the 1,223 megawatts Balloki and 1,230 megawatts Haveli Bahadur power plants- considered two of the most efficient RLNG plants in the world.
Last year, Saudi investors had shown an interest in acquiring the two plants through a government-to-government deal, but the Pakistan government decided to follow legal procedures for privatization and the deal didn’t go through.

“Saudis are one of the most high potential investors for these plants. They had also previously shown an interest in an oil refinery, agriculture, and livestock, technology, and tourism, among many other sectors,” a member of the privatization board, who declined to be named, told Arab News on Sunday.

Interested investors are required to submit their EoIs no later than Dec. 23. 

The South Asian country, home to 210 million people, faced huge economic imbalances and availed a $6 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July this year.

Now the country is hoping to raise more funds through the privatization of loss-making state-owned entities and to build up its foreign exchange reserves as suggested by the IMF.

Analysts say that the privatization of power plants will ensure operational efficiency and bring in much needed foreign exchange for the country.
 
“I think it's positive because the government shouldn’t be in business, and should only act as a strong regulator. The transaction will bring required dollar in-flows as well as efficiency in operations,” Samiullah Tariq, Director Research at Arif Habib Limited, a brokerage, told Arab News.

The Haveli Bahadur Shah Project is the most efficient power plant in the world with an unprecedented efficiency of 62.45 percent on R-LNG fuel.

This high efficiency translates directly into huge savings for the national exchequer through fuel cost savings and provides cheap electricity to the masses and industry. The plant started commercial operations on May 9, 2018.

The Balloki plant has an efficiency of greater than 61 percent. It entered commercial operations in July last year and generates the equivalent power needed to supply more than six million homes, according to the NPPMCL.

The Cab­inet Committee on Privatization approved the privatization of the two plants in September. Under the approval, if the highest bidder for both plants is the same, the investor will be able to buy the combined entity. But a de-merger will be a condition for the transaction if the bidders for both plants are different.


Pakistan interior minister orders ‘strict’ action against spread of COVID-19 'fake news'

Updated 11 min 29 sec ago

Pakistan interior minister orders ‘strict’ action against spread of COVID-19 'fake news'

  • Says all available resources would be used to identify people who spread misinformation
  • Rights activists fear new laws to curb coronavirus fake news could be used to clamp down on freedom of speech

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s minister for interior, Ijaz Ahmad Shah, on Thursday directed authorities to take “strict and immediate” action against those involved in spreading coronavirus misinformation, a week after the government announced plans to introduce new laws to curb COVID-19 “fake news” on social media.
Last week, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), a top federal body set up to oversee the government’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, set up a committee under the chairmanship of the interior minister to prepare a legal framework to help the government deal with coronavirus-related “fake news” on social media platforms.
“The Federal Minister for Interior, Ijaz Ahmad Shah directed the Director Cyber Wing, FIA to closely monitor and hold the responsible ones accountable for their actions,” the Ministry of Interior said in a statement released after Shah presided over a meeting on formulating a “COVID-19 Disinformation Prevention Mechanism.”
“He reinforced the point that strict and immediate action should be taken against these people. The Minister further said that people who are involved in such actions are not pro-country or its people.”
Shah said the primary purpose of the new committee was to ensure that “correct and credible information” was disseminated, adding that all available resources would be used to identify people who spread disinformation.
He also directed the head of Pakistan’s electronic media regulator not to allow “fake news” to run on TV channels.
Islamabad has previously struggled to regulate online content mostly by blocking or asking social media companies to remove blasphemous material and other posts that violate the country’s religious and cultural norms and laws, or hurt national security interests.
In February, the government approved, and then rolled back, new rules to regulate cyberspace after opponents said they could be used to stifle dissent. Social media companies have also largely shunned obliging to help law enforcement agencies access data and remove online content deemed unlawful.
Rights activists and free media campaigners fear the government’s new coronavirus “fake news” mechanism could be used to clamp down on freedom of speech.
“This shady mechanism is going to have serious implications for the already squeezed freedom of press and expression in Pakistan,” Haroon Baloch, researcher and program manage at Bytes for All, told Arab News.
Baloch said disinformation on social media was a challenge but not a crime, unless it turned into “deep-fake” news that harmed individuals and groups.
“The government must ensure transparency in the so-called mechanism,” he said, “along with ensuring an oversight of civil society and free speech campaigners to prevent abuse.”