Civil aviation minister Buddhi Raj Bajracharya has pledged implementation of the recommendations made by a committee on the Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC). What is welcome is the decision not to form yet another committee for studying the ways of bringing the long-ailing national flag carrier back to health. For several such committees had been formed over the years to probe allegations of irregularities in purchase deals, corruption, bribery etc. or explore steps towards the improvement of RNAC’s performance, but without any tangible results. RNAC has been running at a loss for years. Successive governments never paid due attention to running the airline professionally. Major scandals, involving tens of millions of rupees, have marred the image and financial health of the oldest airline.
There has been more than such a report and it is not clear which report the minister is referring to. The composition of the teams themselves drew controversy at that time and their coming under uncalled for influence was also alleged. One such report recommended the virtual dissolution of RNAC. Another suggested the formation of two companies for the domestic and international sectors. All this implies the anathema of certain sections to retaining the name RNAC, which is a brand in itself and carries a huge goodwill even in its present state of distress.
Those making decisions should understand that RNAC, fully state-owned, involves the taxpayer’s money. Selling off public enterprises at throw-away prices to some businessmen will give privatisation a bad name. After all, RNAC is not a monopoly like the Nepal Electricity Authority or the Nepal Oil Corporation. There are now a number of competing Nepali airlines, catering to both domestic and international passengers. So the best way of ridding RNAC of the state’s stranglehold is to invite public participation in its ownership, for example to the extent of half its total shares or thereabouts, to begin with. This way it will be privatised and there will be no risk too of underhand dealings by vested interests. And under private management, the corporation stands to improve its performance. This could be done with just a simple change in RNAC’s statute.