Air India has to be privatized with political consensus, Ajit Singh says

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 07, 2013 15:51 hrs

New Delhi: Though he retracted under attack, civil aviation minister Ajit Singh on Monday stuck to his ground that Air India has to be privatized for which a political consensus has to be built.

"This government has only about six months left. There is no plan (for privatizing Air India) and the issue is not under active consideration at all," he told reporters.

He, however, maintained it was his personal belief that, in the future, "the government of the day will have to look at privatization and build a political consensus on the issue before taking a position. I never said I am going to do it".

Singh had come attack from the opposition for his remarks that government was ready to privatize Air India after which he backtracked yesterday saying it has "no intention" to do so.

Maintaining that the government would not give any more funds to the airline after the equity infusion of Rs 30,000 crore till 2021, Singh today said, "I am firmly of the view that government should not be in the service sector like hotels.

"Future governments will have to study the (privatization) issue. But today, the time and the situation is not correct," he said.

On criticism by BJP and Left, Singh said he was "amazed" to hear such reactions.

He maintained that Air India would have to fend for itself and its employees and the management would have to realize that aviation was a very competitive market.

"The margins are thin and it's a capital intensive industry," he said.

Air India has considerably improved its financial and operational position in the recent past, including its passenger load factor and on-time performance, Singh added.

It was also launching new international flights to destinations like Australia and planning services to Moscow and Rome.

"In the previous financial year, its EBIDTA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) was in losses to the level of Rs 2,300 crore. This year, it aims to earn a positive EBIDTA of Rs 1,000 crore," he said.

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