ISLAMABAD: US President Donald Trump is interested in buying the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, which is owned by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), it emerged on Wednesday during a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Privatisation.

MD PIA Investments informed the lawmakers that Trump had expressed interest in acquiring the iconic hotel in the past and is still keen on purchasing it.

“The government has tried 10 times to sell the hotel.” Briefing the members, Privatisation Minister Muhammad Mian Soomro said that the government is not selling the property, instead they are planning to lease it out or work in a joint venture with the private sector.

Senior PML-N leader and former federal minister Khawaja Asif said that parliament should be taken into confidence over the privatisation matter.

“We are not against privatisation but we must wait for a better time to get a good price. The whole US market is of the view that when the work can be done from home, what’s the need to have an office,” Asif added.

“Don’t make a decision nowand wait. Right now neither PIA would be sold out nor the hotel.” The opposition parties slammed the ruling party when it was reported in the media earlier this month that the government is considering to sell the Roosevelt Hotel.

However, the plan was shelved due to stiff opposition and the coronavirus pandemic. In a meeting on July 2, the Cabinet Committee on Privatisation (CCoP) decided that the Roosevelt Hotel would be run under a joint venture with a third party.

The CCoP agreed to hire a financial adviser to start the process for the transaction in the light of the report of M/s Deloitte (an auditing firm) from July 2019 which recommended, “that the highest and best use of the Roosevelt Hotel Property is to redevelop the site into a mixed use (through Joint Venture) of primarily office tower over retail and condominium”.

The statement added that it was also directed that Deloitte would update its study on the hotel transaction in the next four weeks and the findings shall be shared with the CCoP.

Meanwhile, Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar announced that the government is not privatising the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) instead they would bid for running it on a joint venture.

“We will be running the steel mill in cooperation with the private investors,” he said while giving a briefing to a Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production, headed by Senator Ahmed Khan.

He said that they had discussed the possibilities of a joint venture with 12 international organisations and six even visited to analyse the possibility. He said that three parties are serious in running the Pakistan Steel Mills.

He said that in 2008, the steel mills had a fund of Rs10 billion but it suffered losses after steel prices witnessed a decline in the international market in the following years. Hammad Azhar said that in 2010, 4,500 employees of the PSM got permanent status despite an already influx of employees and its average production came down to 40 percent and later further declined to six percent.

“In 2015, the PSM was shut down and the employees and pensioners received billions of rupees in terms of salaries and pension during the next five years till 2020,” he said adding that the mill had an influx of employees, making its operations difficult. He further blamed that a lot of material was stolen from within the steel mills premises.

It is pertinent to mention here that on June 9, federal cabinet meeting held under the chair of Imran Khan concluded in Islamabad and decided in principle to privatise Pakistan Steel Mills. The federal cabinet formally agreed upon the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) suggestion to privatise the public-owned steel mill.