Lahore, Sept 10 : To overcome the country's worst ever budget deficit, the Pakistan Government is reportedly mulling over selling some of its valuable energy assets to private players, first in the list of such assets being a major gas field.
The Qadirpur gas field having a natural gas reserve of 2.9 trillion cubic feet in the Indus river flood plain, and said to be the second largest in the country, is valued at about three billion dollars.
Besides, the Pakistan government is toying with the idea of entering into deals with private investors in industries like banking and farming, the New York reported.
According to the paper, because of a hefty oil bill and a slowing economy, Pakistan is struggling under its biggest budget deficit in a decade of nearly 21 billion dollars, inflation that hit a 30-year high, and fast-rising unemployment projected to reach 6.6 percent in 2009. "In such a scenario, government leaders are eager to raise quick money," the report said.
"The government is going through all its funding options," the paper quoted a banker advising the Pakistani government as saying on the condition of anonymity.
According to the bankers, bids for the Qadirpur gas field, about 260 miles northeast of Karachi, may be submitted in the next week or so.
Likely bidders include foreign companies already involved in Pakistan's energy industry, like Kuwaiti state corporations and OMV, a private Austrian energy company. "They're testing the market with an auction," said an energy banker who asked to remain anonymous.
The selling of the Qadirpur field could be controversial because it is considered a strategic asset. Pakistan imports more than three-quarters of its petroleum and is struggling to become less dependent on imports. But a person close to the deal said there were no guarantees that the field would be sold. He characterised the bid solicitation as an informal process.