Since it has been well established that the mode de gouvernance relevant for the Pakistani political landscape is to avoid a horizontal alignment at all costs, the government today and in future would duck a million times if it has to, but not establish its writ in front of mob of any size. Things that one has to do to stay in power! The government would rather incur losses of more than Rs600 billion annually than stand tall to protests, which could spill over and cause subversion. This is the price the state has to pay for not being entrusted with national trust while being, very proudly so, democratically elected.
In the state’s defense, it is like walking on a very thin rope to extract water out of a deep well. Once the privatisation process is initiated, the discourse surrounds burnt cars, corruption, lost jobs, the much higher than ten per cent cut, and concerns regarding the possibility of being able to mend the black sheep. On the critical end, successive governments have been unable to prove their worth on this front (among all others) and privatised entities are still surrounded by deep controversies. Now only if we had only one favourite; the non-transparent privatisation of PTCL has resulted in losses of more than a billion dollars (Rs89 billion)with ambiguity on whether the entire payment has been received, and, KESC’s liabilities (contingent upon GoP) have grown to Rs160 billion from reportedly zero at the time of privatisation.
Moreover, processes that were initiated, such as the case of PIA, met with severe criticism although the organisation has negative net worth of about Rs63 billion and accumulated losses of more than Rs90 billion. Similarly, Pakistan Railways incurs an annul loss amounting to Rs15 billion, has been injected with Rs10 billion in the last two months. Commentators lament loss of about 400 engines, which were, by the way, as old as the country itself, while about a hundred or so original and very antique masterpieces are by the grace of god still functioning. Recently, sighs of relief were heard when some engines convalesced, as there is much talk of privatising the white elephant.
So clearly, things are out of control and the government cannot afford more dissent and disapproval than what it already faces. But if one were to compare the Rs600 billion loss with the Rs300 billion that the government intends to spend on the country’s education, hospitals, roads, in sum all of us, the writer cannot help but feel wistful at the prospects of having about a trillion rupees being available to spend purely on development. And if one were to compare, the Rs743 billion paid in direct taxes with the said amount, it would be unnatural for the salaried/middle class to not feel infuriated and push demands for expedient privatisation.
As of Oct-11, the credit extended to Public Sector Enterprises amounted to Rs407 billion, about Rs19 billion higher than the beginning of the year. If one were to keep the losses in perspective with this amount, one would only wish a lot of luck to banks that have lent out this money. On the same end, credit to the private sector has gone down by Rs37 billion during the Jul-Oct’11, thus it is not just the prospect of recovery but the opportunity costs that have to be brought in perspective.
In the heart of hearts, nobody wants anyone to die. But in the current scenario, a larger group of people is being choked to support a few. And sadly, it’s not just for now and today. There is no solace.
The writer is an economic analyst and freelance financial journalist. She can be contacted at [email protected]