KARACHI: In 2016, a Chinese company was awarded a contract for garbage collection in the districts South and East of Karachi at the rate of $26 per ton — a rate 8 times higher than what was being paid to a local company for the same job.
The Chinese company failed to bring in the required equipment and employ sufficient staff to perform the task satisfactorily. The performance was so abysmal that that the Judicial Commission on Water and Sanitation had to state that if the Chinese company is not acting according to the contract, the agreement should be revoked.
At the start of this year, the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board issued another international tender for sweeping, collection and transportation of municipal solid waste. This allocation seems irrational, given the current state of the economy and the inflated conversion rate of the dollar to the rupee.
We do not value our own janitorial staff and pay them wages as low as Rs11,100 per month (current wages of sweepers who clean the roads in Defence and Clifton), which is much lower than the minimum wage in Sindh. Likewise, we paid Rs320 per ton to our own local companies for garbage collection in Karachi while we are willing to pay eight times more and that too in dollars to the foreign companies despite their poor performance.
In 2017, the Asian Development Bank agreed to provide a loan of $800 million to the Sindh government, over a course of years, to support a number of development projects. This further explains our dependency syndrome. As one of the world’s poorest countries, we prefer to borrow from international organisations for basic development projects.
Simultaneously taxpayers’ money is used to pay foreign companies for tasks as simple as garbage collection. I hope we learn to appreciate our local organisations and invest in developing their systems rather than further burdening ourselves with contracts with foreign companies.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2019.