Casting a long shadow

The decision to set up performance monitoring units in DISCOs is a long-term one

The proposal to set up Performance Monitoring Units in loss-making electricity distribution companies under a serving brigadier, with representatives from the FIA and the Intelligence Bureau is debatable. The caretaker government may have the legal right to take a decision on this proposal, but it should not. The purpose of caretaker governments are twofold; one, to conduct elections; two, to keep the motor of government chugging away in the interim between the dissolution of one assembly and the meeting of the new one. At the time, the extension in the powers of the caretaker government was justified as enabling it to take decisions allowing it to meet IMF conditionalities already agreed by the outgoing government.

One of the concerns has been with the circular debt problem in the power sector, and the proposal is explicitly meant to tackle the circular-debt issue. The proposal is based on the experience of the Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation, which saw line losses reduced after a task force led by an Army officer identified wrongdoers. Apart from the dangers of imposing one-size-fits-all solutions to what are complex problems, it almost seems as if the caretaker government is in hurry to tie down the incoming government by actions which could not be easily reversed. It seems that the hybrid regime’ model is to be followed, with it not really mattering which party comes to power, so long as it follows whatever has been laid down for it, and perhaps more importantly, does whatever it is told.

The DISCOs are not the only example. Caretaker PM Anwarul Haq Kakar was recently in the UAE and Kuwait where he inked a large number of MoUs in each country, which, if realised, would bring Pakistan billions of dollars from each country. It is not as if this was an event planned a long time in advance, and thus something the caretakers had to do. It seems more a case of the government trying to push through something, and thus present the incoming government with a fait accompli. The caretaker government has shown that the ‘hybrid’ experiment is not yet over. Whatever happens to the elected government that takes office, it seems that the elections are only being gone through for form’s sake, and there is little real choice offered to the electorate, especially in the realm of the economy.

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The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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