Plundering of Remaining Public Assets


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“Conventional wisdom” of our political leaders assumes that the public assets are always loss-making being burden on the national exchequer, and that the private sector is always viable, efficient, profitable and transparent. These misperceptions have become part of all our normal understanding and discussion. Bitter fact on the other hand is that through the gross mismanagement, overstaffing and rampant corruption our leaders deliberately drive down the value of state assets to create justification to sell out them on throw away or even no price to their nears and dears, and then propagate their above referred “conventional wisdom”; privatization is the name behind which these political leaders hide.

I can quote example of several renowned firms which had never been some state-owned enterprises, but freely functioning, most vibrant, highly profit-making private-sector firms which, like thousands of others, failed and collapsed completely, due to scandals, bad governance and corruption. There are just countless other examples in the private sector which show that the private sector is as liable to fail as the public sector.

Both, private – as well as public-sector corporations can fail and both can run successfully. But for the last about two decades we are being fed constant propaganda by a powerful conglomerate of industrialists and big businessmen telling us privatization to be the only answer to inefficient, bureaucratic government – when the reality is that privatization is actually the problem, not the solution. Till now the privatization done has resulted in all the profitable public assets transferred into the hands of a selected few. This is actually crony capitalism at its worst.

The neoliberal claim by introducing “free” markets without any sort of government intervention, and the abandonment of public services like education and health, economies would perform more effectively, producing canals of honey and milk and economic prosperity for all. This claim is predicated on the sole assumption that “free” markets always perform better and are able to create low cost ways to produce consumer goods and services.

On the contrary to it, all the social and economic variables have gone from bad to worse expecting the citizens to offer more blood, tears, toil and sweat. The concept of “free economy” and privatization adopted by our successive governments has had serious negative effects on the quality of life previously enjoyed by the people of Pakistan, and particularly the most vulnerable groups within our society. These include rising unemployment, increased food prices, higher costs for education and health care, and a rapid decline in the availability of services. Today racism and inequality continue to destroy Pakistan after introduction of “free” market economy. The rich is getting richer while more than 60% of the population has been pushed to live on less than two dollars a day.

Before liberalization a common man could feed, house and clothe his wife and his 5/6 children without outside help. Today his life is getting unbearable provoking deep social unrest. Today he has only one meal a day because that’s all he can afford at the maximum. Today, people are dying; they are going hungry and becoming stunted with reduced mental and physical capacity. They are suffering. After so called liberalization, the cost of food, fuel and housing has risen dramatically in Pakistan which has begun to bite hard and the poorest members of society are badly affected. The people are today struggling to make ends meet, and to put food on the family table. But soaring prices have made their daily battle for survival ever harder.

It is amazing that the rulers after coming to power are taking their own businesses touches the heights of profitability but the public assets go down and down during their governance. It is alleged that the rulers are buying big profitable public sector enterprises in the name of privatization from behind the scene, as PML-N government, in all of its tenures distributed a number of state-owned, profit-making enterprises among its relatives, supporters and business partners of its leadership.

Look at the education how it has been destroyed by privatization. Public institutions once provided a good inexpensive education for everyone until these fraudulent privatization “reformers” came along. Education is just one example, there are countless other stories highlighting perils and fallacies of privatization.

The rulers have started implementing their privatization policy. Their policies after getting loans from IMF seem to be against the national interest. A list of another 31 best performing public assets has been issued by the incumbent government for loot sale of the national assets through “privatization” during their current tenure. These assets are being offered for sale as if they are holdings of PML(N) leaders, rather than the resources of all the people of Pakistan. Previously Privatization of highly profitable and progressive public sector entities on throw away prices had stunned and shocked the people of Pakistan, the actual owners of those entities. The critics always voiced their concerns with solid reasoning but the powerful rulers turned deaf ear and sold out the national assets against peanuts for their own interests.

I think there is no need of privatization public assets indeed we must improve the efficiency of public sector by devising an appointment and disciplinary commission for executive and regulatory bodies for transparent and effective management, purposeful restructuring of these bodies, security of tenure, implementing stringent laws and always keeping an eye by the commission on the work of each and every individual in public sector, by reducing the corruption we can gradually increase efficiency of the public sectors and by providing required amount of funds and also ensuring that fund is completely utilized to improve its efficiency only. The government should work for the revival of national institutions instead of worshiping their self-centered desires.


Shaukat Masood Zafar
Shaukat Masood Zafar
A well known freelance columnist writing for daily Pakistan Observer, and several other national and international websites and newspapers. Economy, Politics, and Agricultural & Rural Development are especially areas of his interest.


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