New civil aviation minister says he's open to privatization

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New civil aviation minister is open to privatization
New Delhi, May 29: The new Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati on Thursday said he was 'open to privatization of the aviation sector.

"I am open to it. I'll let me put it this way. I am not closed to anything," said Pusapati, a TDP MP.

Speaking to reporters after taking charge at the Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, Gajapati Raju said: "I will discuss Air India's situation with the Prime Minister. We will have to analyse the reasons for losses; is it competition or something else."

Air India has recently managed to improve its financial condition by becoming EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes and amortization) positive for the first time, but it is far from breaking-even or ushering in profits.

The carrier has got a new lease of life, as the previous government had approved plans for a turnaround in its fortunes with a re-haul in financial and operational efficiency.

Currently the airline is laden with a cumulative debt of Rs.40,000 crore, which it incurred over aircraft acquisition and as short-term loans to maintain its operations.

It received a fresh equity infusion of Rs.5,000 crore in the interim budget for 2014-15.

The cash-strapped carrier will be provided a total infusion of around Rs.20,000 crore till 2020-2021 to turn around its operational and financial performance.

According to Gajapati Raju, the government will take complete cognisance of the situation being faced by the cash-strapped sector, which has seen airlines and private airport operators bleed in the recent past due to high fuel and interest costs.

"Government will have to look at the total picture being faced by the industry. Civil aviation is a basic infrastructure for the future and is very important," he said.

Even after a slew of reforms like allowing direct import of jet fuel and participation of foreign airlines in domestic passenger carriers, the industry continues to bleed.

On the controversies surrounding the issue of new airline licenses the minister said: "There are controversies but I would not like to start (talk) about controversies today."

Oneindia News
With IANS inputs)

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