Trust in government-run entities has been low due to poor track records and often cases in which no record has been kept. Conversely, takeovers by private corporations in various arenas have demonstrated success and efficiency. One may study the banking, health, education, or transportation industries for example. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s green signal to privatise two entities synonymous with the economy, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM), comes as a relief. This is with simultaneous consideration of the pilferage and dysfunctionality of national assets for years. It is hoped that these companies can be revived to effectively provide goods and services to people and execute damage control and mitigate losses to the national exchequer.
The devastation by PIA to the national exchequer has amounted between Rs34 billion and Rs45 billion annually in the last few years. The PSM’s functional capacity does not exceed 50 per cent, which has resulted in a lower GDP and unrealised potential year after year. Owing to the efficiency of the private sector, coupled with the unreliability of government entities, people have built significantly greater trust for private firms. Such companies take their work seriously whereas employees running government entities tend to work with a sense of entitlement, unconcerned with the quality of work. Bogged in a myriad of political foul play, they also lack foresight on how to take things further and improve public companies. This has been the main criticism for PIA, along with financial mismanagement in the way of excessive employment.
Our government should work on its administrative issues by first focusing on the quarters and services it is directly responsible for. Better financial management and the adoption of technology would help to build trust and capabilities again. For now, to save the country from embarrassment and keep PIA and the PSM afloat, the privatisation approval was necessary.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2018.
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