Wednesday, December 8, 2010

US envoy calls for privatisation of sick govt enterprises

US envoy calls for privatisation of sick govt enterprises

KARACHI: US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter called for the reform and privatisation of Pakistan’s state owned enterprises, which are costing the government $3 billion annually.

In fiscal year 2010, these state owned enterprises cost government of Pakistan almost $3 billion in state subsidies – twice the amount of Kerry-Lugar-Berman assistance”, Cameron stated at a ceremony at the Karachi Stock Exchange on Monday. These inefficient enterprises, he added, were a major drain on the country’s budget and consume resources that could be used more productively by the private sector.

Munter said the Obama administration was actively working with the Congress to provide market access to help Pakistani export sector. He said market access was much better than any assistance programme that US had for Pakistan. “US embassy and US consulates are committed to work with US Congress to provide market access benefits to help Pakistani exporters,” he said. Cameron also expressed concern over chronic and severe energy problem in the country, which he believed had the potential to fuel a crisis that could threaten Pakistan’s political and economic stability. He was also critical of government subsidy to the power sector. “It makes little sense for the government of Pakistan to continue to drain the government budget by paying huge subsidies to power sector,” Munter said.

About the much-talked about Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) proposal, he said that it had been the source of some frustration in the US and said that the American administration was committed to the ROZs, whose legislation would hopefully be passed by the new Congress in the coming year.

Munter said Pakistan must diversify its export base and. For the private sector, the US ambassador said that they would continue to press the government of Pakistan to foster a business climate that welcomed private investment in different sectors.

He pledged US government’s commitment in overcoming an energy deficit facing the country. Cameron stressed tax, budget and economic reforms legislation, which, he said, would enable the private sector to grow, create more jobs and profits that Pakistan needs to succeed in the long-term. Dr Marilyn Wyatt, US ambassador’s wife, inaugurated a US-funded Career Development Center in Karachi, which will help thousands of young jobs seekers in Karachi become stronger candidates for employment and assist employers. The centre is affiliated with the Greenwich University and would provide employment services to current students and jobless graduates from the university, according to a press statement issued by the US embassy.

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