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Bidders unwilling to buy PR's education & health infrastructure
[January 18, 2013]

Bidders unwilling to buy PR's education & health infrastructure

(Daily Frontier Post (Afghanistan) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Bidders unwilling to procure huge schools and hospitals infrastructure of Pakistan Railways (PR) made PR's privatization a failure, sources told The Frontier Post.

Eight hospitals, 17 schools and 4 colleges being run by Pakistan Railways serving its employees in different cities remained an undesired thing for buyers as they were not interested in purchasing it, rather taking control of freight train service, passengers train service and railways workshops.

High official in PR's marketing told The Frontier Post that idea of railways privatization could not succeed as bidders preferred to go for PR services that could generate profit but hospitals and schools deemed a liability to them, a futile structure which they did not desire to carry along their business. Moreover the PR was spending around 4 per cent of its total budget on education and health facility, which was not acceptable to buyers, he added. Chief medical and health officer Dr. Sabt-e-Hassan Gardezi estimated huge funds for maintaining health facilities, exceeding 3 per cent of total budget. It is pertinent to mention here that the PR was facing economic crisis due to huge difference between earnings and expenses. Total revenue of the PR was around 15 billions rupees while expenditures were recorded at 50 billion rupees per annum. For this reason, the government had to provide subsidies and grants to the PR in order to continue its operations which had been calculated around 35 billion rupees per annum.

According to the documents, the PR hospitals were located across Pakistan including Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Multan, Sukkur, Rawalpindi, and Lahore. Rawalpindi hospital was holding 400 beds, while two hospitals, having 300 beds were being utilized by railways employees in Lahore. In Karachi, one hospital with 120 beds was operating exclusively for railways employees. Other hospitals were also operating with few hundred beds in different cities.

Education officer Usman Ghani told The Frontier Post that the PR had maintained efficient education network for its employees. Around 10,000 girls and boys were being taught in schools and colleges under PR control. For this purpose, 550 staff members had been appointed and paid handsome salaries by the PR. Ghani further stated that schools and colleges were situated in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Samasatta, Khanewal and Sukkur. He said children of railways employees were offered admission at primary, middle and secondary levels. He stated that around 70 million rupees were being spent on education of PR employees' children. Ghani underscored that PR's education facility for its employees remained a hurdle in the way of its privatization. He said parties (procurers) did not want to purchase this infrastructure and denied to continue with it. Therefore, PR privatization "idea" remained unpopular among PR staff, particularly among lower scale staff, he added. He highlighted that buyers of PR had no space for large scale facilities for employees which they had been enjoying with a nationalized PR. And, it was expected that downsizing was also a major concern for saying "no" to PR privatization.

Chief Marketing Manager (CMO) Imtiaz Hassan Rizvi, while responding to the issue said that PR administration had proffered to go for public-private partnership and contracting out various services of the PR. The PR, as a whole, was never considered to be privatized. He said health and education infrastructure never hindered the PR privatization.

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