The Senate Standing Committee on Aviation Tuesday sought a detailed briefing by the Pakistan International Airlines Company Limited (PIACL)’s Board of Directors in the next meeting on financial stability plan and future vision to transform the national flag-carrier into a profit-earning entity. The committee meeting, chaired by Senator Mushahidullah Khan, was briefed by the PIACL Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Air Marshal Arshad Malik on reports about closure of the airliner’s Roosevelt Hotel in New York, besides financial constraints and capacity issues of the airliner. He made it clear that the PIA was not going to sale the hotel, but it would be closed down by December 31, for its renovation and future utility plans. The PIA CEO said the privatization commission had been approached through the federal government, which would hire a financial consultant through an international tender to devise a future course of action, considering all the available options. “It would be decided later that whether necessary renovation or repair work would be carried out or the existing building will have to be demolished for reconstruction and raising a 100-storey hotel for which local bylaws are conducive.” Arshad Malik said PIA’s Roosevelt Hotel, a 19-storey building located at a prime location, was acquired in 1978 on the partnership, from its profits and as a part of PIA diversification strategy. In 1999, he said, it acquired 100 percent shareholding at $36.5 million from its resources and without any aid from the government. He said the property had more than a thousand rooms, having an area of 43,313 square feet, adding it was run by the world’s premier Hotel Management Company ‘Interstate Hotel and Resorts’ USA. He said the current market value of the hotel, assessed by M/s Deloitte, was $662 million based on the highest and best use. He said the financial position was of the hotel had been in the ‘Red, ‘ mainly due to debt servicing, unionization, dilapidated building, infrastructure, rooms and public area conditions, which needed immediate upgrade and major repairs in the life of severe weather conditions. The PIA CEO said the declining business of the hotel further aggravated due to the coronavirus pandemic, which could increase the loss to $6 million per year. The committee also took up a harassment case of PIA and listened to both the parties. Senator Sherry Rehman was of the view that the accused of harassment, who was posted as HR Manager in PIA, should be repatriated to its parent department with a recommendation to hold a fresh inquiry against the officer. “It is a classic textbook case of harassment and the officer be removed from his post and sent back to its original organization,” she observed. Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak suggested to further look into the case by arranging a special sitting of the committee members, besides giving another hearing to the complainant and accused. Among others, the meeting was attended by Senators Manzoor Ahmed Kakar, Syed Muzafar Hussain Shah, Shaheen Khalid Butt and Sajjad Hussain Turi, senior officials of Aviation Division and PIACL. Cement export increases 8.27% in Q1 The exports of cement from the country witnessed an increase of 8.27 percent during the first quarter (Q1) of financial year (2020-21) as compare to the corresponding period of last fiscal year. The country exported cement worth US $72.296 million during July-September (2020-21) as against the exports of US $66.773 million during July-September (2019-20), showing growth of 8.27 percent, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). In terms of quantity, the exports of cement increased by 30.09 percent by going up from 2,196,835 metric tons to 1,688,687 metric tons, according to the data. Meanwhile, on year-to-year basis, the exports of cement grew by 23.85 percent during the month of September 2020 as compared to the same month of last year. The exports of cement from the country during September 2020 were recorded at $27.788 million against the exports of $24.623 million in September 2019. On month-on-month basis, the exports of cement also rose by 28.75 percent during September 2020 as compared to the exports of $21.583 million in August 2020, the PBS data revealed. It is pertinent to mention here that the overall merchandize trade deficit increased by 2.02 percent during the first quarter of current fiscal year (2020-21) as compared to the deficit of the corresponding period of last year. The deficit during July-September (2020-21) was recorded at $5.804 billion as compared to the deficit of $5.689 billion, showing increase 2.02 percent. During the period under review, the country’s exports registered negative growth of 0.94 percent, by going down from $5.510 billion last year to $5.458 billion during the current year. On the other hand, the imports decreased by 0.56 percent, from $11.199 billion last year to $11.262 billion during the current year.