It has become customary for our econo- mic wizards to suggest privatisation of industries and institutions as a panacea for the nation’s economic woes. Former finance minister Miftah Ismail is one of them who recently endorsed privatisa-tion and termed it a saviour for the rather wobbling economy.
In his opinion, education and health sectors should be outsourced and the public be compensated with subsidised education and health through vouchers or insurance. If this is done, what is the guarantee that such subsidies and vouchers would not be exclusive for a particular class having the desired political loyalty? Moreover, who will ensure transparency in the disburse-ment of these subsidies and vouchers?
The minister also favours privatisation of the national airline as well as electricity and natural gas distribution and supply companies, calling them a burden on the national exchequer.
They may all be a burden on the feeble economy, but when a part of our body does not work, it is not cut away from the body; it is rather cured or managed. Likewise, when the parents reach an age when they stop benefiting us, they are not, and should never be, alienated.
He has also advocated establishing major private-sector hospitals in different cities as a means to providing healthcare to the masses. This really challenges one’s intellect. Are the existing private hospitals in the country providing healthcare facilities to the poor or are they exclusively meant for the rich?
With suggestions like these, we should all be actually grateful to the former finance minister for not suggesting the privatisation of defence services, police and courts. In a recent statement, Balochistan chief minister said the province had spent about Rs40 billion on security matters. Should we consider that as a burden as well, and think in terms of outsourcing security affairs?
Mass-scale outsourcing of public-sector industries, institutions and services is surly not the solution. Even if all state institutions are privatised, our economic wizards have little idea how to use the billions of dollars they think the country will earn by selling off the proverbial family silver.
Besides, there is no guarantee that these billions of dollars would not be plundered.
The only possible solution to the crises is good governance, impartial accounta-bility, transparency and the rule of law in the country. And, critically, all these need to be done on a sustained basis without which there is no hope of things ever going steady for the country.
SYED FAREED AHMED