PRIVATE AIRPORTS SPUR AVIATION GROWTH
TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
June 21 - 27, 2010
Some of the experts in the aviation industry of Pakistan are firmly advocate of privately-run airports in order to promote healthy competition culture and in the end to give travellers unforgettable experiences of air travelling and pleasures through airports' facilities. However, since it is a capital intensive project and requires constant air traffics to keep balance sheets unaffected of red marks private sector has not stepped up to invest in the field. The share of its participation in the management and operation of airports in the country is negligible with only one airport in the north-east of Punjab run by Sialkot Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Air Cdr (R) Junaid Ameen incumbent director general of Civil Aviation Authority finds no harm in the idea of involving the private sector in to the governance of airports. He is of the view that airports in the country should be privatised, but at the same time he sees the possibility at a distant at least until commercial viability of the existing airports does not brighten up, according to the spokesperson of CAA.
Talking to Page, Pervez George said CAA, the regulator of aviation industry in Pakistan, wants to enhance the efficiency of airports in the country in an effort to bring their services at par with international standards.
Attracting private investments in the critical economic sectors is also an objective of current government. Due to financial constraints, the government is encouraging private sector to collaborate with pubic sector for infrastructure developments. President Asif Ali Zardari while addressing ministers and parliamentarians recently said that they should improve the performances of government departments in order to create interest of private sector in public sector enterprises. This also shows that government seeks private funds to shore up lose-making state-owned organisations.
CAA Director General said that airports in Pakistan were not generating as much profits as to attract investors and first of all to enhance the commercial viability of these airports was important. There are many reasons of this. Becoming frontline state in war on terror thins out the normal progress of many economic sectors in the country including aviation industry that thrives on air traffic movements. As a result of this new role, Pakistan has many international airlines diverted from the country's airspace. This has caused substantial revenue losses to the aviation industry. Nevertheless, one cannot overlook other reasons equally responsible for frightening entrance of private sector in aviation industry. It is said an effective aviation policy can lure private investments in to aviation's infrastructure developments.
At present, there are around 36 airports operating in Pakistan. Of them, ten are international and remaining handle domestic air traffic. It is difficult to tell exactly how many of them are operational right now, said a source in the authority. An operational airport goes in to dysfunction understandably when air crafts landing on them are stopped or halted for a period. For example, Hyderabad airport that is not international had been non-operational for years and in recent months was brought back to working. Of total numbers of airports, so far only one is run by private sector. Located at Sialkot, it is a pioneered private funded airport and basically gave a way to other private ventures to invest in the aviation industry. Since the airport was built entirely on private funds, civil aviation authority has a very little role in its being functional except that the authority provides air traffic control services and some other technical facilities. Airport at Thar, a collaborative project of Sindh Coal Authority and private investors, will be the next one, if built before Gwadar airport, which is another private funded project.
When Civil Aviation Authority takes on the airport operation, it not only builds the airport from the scratch but also is responsible for provision of recurring services such as air traffic route designs, air traffic control, supplying human resources from skilled to technical staff, etc. "In other words, the relationship between airport and CAA is a long lasting bond which gains strength over the passage of time," George said. We have professionally trained readers to collect signals from CAA-deployed radars across the fly zone of Pakistan. In addition to air traffic control, the authority has pilots and technical staffs supply agreements with the airports. Civil Aviation Authority is a public sector enterprise governed by Ministry of Defence. From training to pilots to licensing to aircraft engineers, CAA carries large scale human resource development activities.
According to Pervez George, CAA has a highly equipped training institution in the suburb of Hyderabad to give training to traffic control staffs, engineers, pilots, etc. The facility is one of the largest aviation institutions of Asia, he claimed. Civil Aviation Training Institute runs programmes in disciplines: air traffic services, electronics engineering, communication operations, aviation management and administration, rescue and fire fighting services, and electromechanical engineering. Civil Aviation Apprenticeship Programme takes intermediate students through public advertisements. The institute provides on the job training to apprentice. CATI accredited by International Civil Aviation Organisation supplies on-demand staffs to airports around the country.
The authority has built majority of local and international airports in the country. Jinnah International Airport was one of such landmark construction by CAA in terms of airport's air traffic load.
The surplus before tax of CAA witnessed a leap jump from Rs1.3 billion in 1998 to Rs6.3 billion in 2007. Incomes during this period surged to Rs12 billion from Rs4.1 billion. The sources of incomes of the authority mainly comprise of landing and housing, route navigation, and embarkation fees, cargo throughput, advertisement, aircraft power supply, airworthiness and licence fee, disposal or scrap, calibration charges, etc.