IN the backdrop of chequered history of disinvestment, Minister for Privatisation, Muhammad Mian Soomro, during a meeting on Sunday said that the Privatisation Commission of Pakistan is working on reforms to bring transparency, uniformity and consistency in transaction management. Soomro further said that for efficient implementation of the privatisation program the Commission is working on reforms including a computerised track record of the timelines through software to be kept for a closer monitoring of transaction processes.
Privatization programme in Pakistan has become controversial due to large-scale allegations of manipulation of the process by influential and vested interests and as a result the country has been deprived of its assets without realization of the state objectives of the programme. Initially, the process was initiated to get rid of loss-incurring entities to minimize burden on the national exchequer but with the passage of time the objectives and philosophy of the programme has changed as profit-earning entities are also included in the list and it is used to bridge the budgetary deficit, which is not at all an advisable option. Strangely enough, as the entire world is witnessing economic shocks triggered by Covid-19, Government of Pakistan has budgeted 100 billion rupees from privatization as part of the non-tax revenue receipts for the next financial year. This is despite the fact that in the prevailing environment no national asset is expected to fetch its true worth during disinvestment process. It is also argued by those supporting privatization that it is not the job of the Government to do business and that the process promotes competition, increases efficiency and eliminate corruption. However, there are many instances in Pakistan, which prove that the reverse is true as none of these cherished objectives were realized and in some cases the buyers right away disposed of units and used the land for commercial and residential purposes. There are also instances established the fact that privatization does not enhance efficiency or production and instead some units and entities were better managed when they were in the public sector. Despite all this, with an honest and committed person like Muhammad Mian Soomro incharge of the privatisation process, one hopes he would succeed in addressing these flaws and make it truly transparent. However, it would be a great service to the nation if he reviews the privatization policy itself based on the bitter experience of the past.