Pakistan needs giant steps to turn around aviation sector: WealthPK

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s aviation sector is witnessing a decline due to a variety of factors which can be mitigated by adopting a pragmatic long-term strategy.
The state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), once a role model and a leader in the aviation industry, is now on the verge of hitting a dangerously low ground due to its steady descent over the past 20 years.
Saddam Hussein, a Research Economist at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), told WealthPK that the current surge in the oil prices, depreciation of local currency, overstaffing, political interference, and PIA’s perilous financial status have contributed to the airline’s woes during the recent years. He pointed out that poor governance, weak performance, and corruption are the main reasons for unsatisfactory performance of the national flag carrier.
Saddam said the aviation industry needs to be overhauled across the board.
Senator Saleem Mandviwalla has submitted a report to the Senate Standing Committee on Aviation, which indicates that Pakistan’s aviation industry is performing the worst in the region. The report mentioned that Pakistan has about 0.03 seats per person as compared to India (0.16), Nepal (0.11) and Bangladesh (0.04).
The senator’s report shows that there are only 30 airports in Pakistan and about half of them are not operational for commercial flights. The aviation sector contributes 1.3% to Pakistan’s GDP (gross domestic product).
At present, for the 220 million-strong nation, just 226 aircraft are registered in Pakistan, out of which 15% are not flying.
Pakistan needs to make great strides to benefit from a vibrant civil aviation industry. The task is daunting, but it is not impossible.
Firstly, the policymakers should set up a qualified high-level committee on civil aviation. It should consist of representatives of the airline industry, the government, and support bodies. The Edwards Committee formed by the UK in the 1970s is one example. A professional and veteran individual in the field of aviation should be appointed to the head of the committee.
Secondly, the committee should be tasked with analyzing the country’s aviation policy and those of some other developing countries such as India, China, Iran, Malaysia, and the UAE, and then develop a comprehensive and futuristic policy that could be implemented after the cabinet approval. The committee should also study the aviation policies of the US and the European Union. These studies would identify global trends and the various weaknesses that exist in Pakistan’s policy.
Lastly, it is necessary to institutionalize accountability, eliminate deadwood, and prevent corrupt individuals from continuing to serve in aviation administrations.