Lack of a political will, unregulated and inefficient market system and bureaucratic red-tape are among the reasons for government’s inability to provide basic services to the public sector.
These were the views expressed by experts at an event organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday. The discussion, titled, “Understanding the Dynamics of Access to Public Services: The Framework for Voice, Exit and Accountability”, is also the subject of a working paper under the AAWAZ programme which focuses on the issue of access to services in the public sector.
SDPI Research Fellow and Governance Specialist Dr Shehryar Toru said that people resorted to ‘voice’ to show their resentment to the state’s non-provision of services. “In the absence of a response, citizens also chose to ‘exit’ and acquire services such as education and health from elsewhere if they have enough disposable income.
Defining Pakistan as a diffused society, Toru said the underprivileged in particular faced difficulties in obtaining basic goods and services due of bureaucratic red-tape, widespread corruption, ineffective accountability and an unequal distribution of resources.
Strengthening Participatory Organisation Chief Executive Naseer Memon said that the state needed to take more responsibility to ensure efficient service delivery to the people and lamented the government’s lack of political will in addressing core issues.
Memon said that the lack of information and technology was also proving to be a hindrance. “Public sector development has hit rock bottom and we cannot satisfy our citizens. Unfortunately, those with political connection get personal favours while the rest are hung out to dry,” he added.
Memon argued in favour of devolving state power with regards to the distribution of services. He maintained that while markets were imperfect, the state was obligated to play a regulatory role in ensuring that markets delivered and were accountable to citizens.
Toru echoed these sentiments, saying, “the market functions only for the rich, while the poor are neglected”.
According to the paper, rich families with disposable income can afford to send their children to schools in the city, while the poor were entrapped due of a lack of resources.
For the poor, an ‘exit’ option becomes less attractive because it depends on cost and quality of the alternative service.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2013.