Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel at the International arrivals area at Islamabad International Airport, Pakistan. Photo taken on May 5, 2020. Image Credit: Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and HRD

Islamabad: A team from the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) is visiting Pakistan until April 14 to evaluate the potential for outsourcing operations at three major airports in the country.

Pakistan has initiated the process of outsourcing operations and land assets at three major airports to be run through a public-private partnership to generate foreign exchange reserves and improve facilities.

During the latest visit, the IFC team visited Islamabad international airport and met with the officials of airport management and security authorities including Pakistan Customs, Airport Security Force (ASF), ANF Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), according to Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson.

The team also met with the ground handling agencies and the ground staff from PIA, Emirates and Saudi Airlines. This visit follows the team’s previous visits to Karachi and Lahore airports.

Public-private partnership 

akistan’s government engaged the World Bank’s private-sector arm, known as IFC, as an advisor for the outsourcing process.

“The outsourcing of three airports has been initiated within the scope of public-private partnership … to engage private investor/airport operator through a competitive and transparent process to run the airports, develop appertaining land assets and enhance avenues for commercial activities and to garner full revenue potential,” according to the finance ministry.

Last year, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has okayed the outsourcing of the management of three major airports in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.

Government officials say that the outsourcing of airports would not only provide revenue to the government but would also help improve facilities for air travellers. Traditionally, airports globally were managed by states directly or through a civil aviation authority, but the trend shifted to privatisation or outsourcing in the last three decades. As of 2017, nearly 39 per cent of the top 500 airports globally had private sector participation, according to Airports Council International.