'The benefits of this wise and timely move are already visible through sweeping changes and rapid progress in several sectors of economy'

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Mar 13 - 19, 2006

The process of extensive privatization and business-cum-investment policies ushered in by the present government are described as breath of fresh air.

This has helped to bring the country into an era of fierce competitiveness with the required competitiveness and confidence which can only be provided by a burgeoning and flourishing private sector.

A survey made by the PAGE found the President and all his senior colleagues in LCCI upbeat on the rapid privatization being achieved under a clear vision of President Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and their team members.

President LCCI Mian Shafqat Ali has described the process of privatisation as a potent tonic for the national economy. He said the benefits of this wise and timely move are already visible through sweeping changes and rapid progress in several sectors of economy. He quoted examples of Banking, Telecommunications, and Information Technology which are making rapid headway. He said the fruits of this new policy can be seen vividly even in floating of several private sector airlines and its impact on national carrier. Same was the case with the flourishing of several private TV and radio channels to help boost the pace of national development in every sector.

Same views have been expressed by Senior Vice President LCCI, Abdul Basit, who said that the country was finally moving forward with the help of privatisation to bring the much needed efficiency and credibility to the economy. He said that even the dormant sector of agriculture was now on the move. He said formation of PAMCO and recent arrival of one of international giants like MACRO, with their innovative approach to agri marketing were sure signs of headway in this field as the country needs a shot in arm in agriculture being largely an agrarian economy.

He said appearance of several private airlines had been a blessing for the public and given PIA the much needed sense of competition prior to its own eventual privatisation.

He feels only a heavy dose of privatisation can rid the country of its deep slumber and put the country on the road to progress and achieve its true potential.

The spectre of privatisation which had already begun in many giants like PTCL and KESC is now moving onward to another heavy weight namely Habib Bank to fully implement its given charter.

The Habib Bank Limited kicked off with its first post privatisation restructuring on March 10 with the retrenchment orders for 2,300 employees defined as engaged in non core activities like security, logistics and other manual work. As per the available details the 2,300 include guards, messengers, godown chowkidars, drivers, maintenance staff and other categories of manual / non clerical workers. The bank privatised in December 2003 has been the largest bank in Pakistan prior to its privatisation with the most elaborate network of branches.

The retrenchment order clearly inform the recipients that they stand relieved with immediate affect. The letter further informs the retrenched workers that in addition to the normal benefits, they would be entitled to benefits detailed in the Bank circular numbered STF/2006/Retrenchment dated 10th March 2006. The benefits include 2/3 months basic pay for each completed year of service. They also include Benevolent Fund Grant equivalent to 10 years. Those having served for less than 25 years would not be entitled to normal retirement benefits. Those employees who are not regular would not be entitled to any of benefits.

The letter also advises the terminated employees to leave the mailing address with the bank so that they may be allowed the opportunity of re-employment in accordance with the law. It also informs the terminated employees that their names would be recommended to the service providers, to whom the bank has decided to outsource the services previously executed by the terminated 2300 employees.

Meanwhile, public dealing in majority of the HBL branches was stalled as the clerical staff dealing with cash and other services refused to undertake any transactions as soon as the letters were delivered to the terminated employees. However, there were no signs of strike on part of the Officers Association, whose office bearers were visibly reluctant to join up with the clerical staff in their protest against retrenchments. CBA source meanwhile told that they have entered into negotiations with the management over the above-mentioned issue of 2300 retrenchments and the strike call has been dropped. These sources also claimed that they have been successful in getting the stay from NIRC Quetta till 8th April 2006. The management sources in Lahore RGM, however, showed ignorance of any such development.

Habib Bank Limited (HBL) was incorporated in 1941. It is headquartered in Karachi, and in terms of private sector commercial customer base, it is the largest commercial bank in Pakistan. The Group is presently engaged in commercial banking, modaraba management and related services in Pakistan and overseas. Its domestic network is spread over 1,408 retail branches and 17 corporate branches, which are strategically located in all cities and towns of the country.