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July 14, 2018

Govt needs to tackle disruptions to increase public sector efficiencies


July 14, 2018

LAHORE: Disruptions in processes and efficiencies are equally encountered by both the public and private sectors, and globally prudent governments and vibrant private sectors react proactively to tackle them, but that is not the case in Pakistan.

Private sector faces challenges of highly efficient technology and innovative upstarts. Fintechs now are a challenge for the financial institutions, robots are marginalising workforce. The power and energy efficient machines have made the machines produced at the start of the century redundant.

Some industries in Pakistan have responded positively to the changes by upgrading technology. The cement units for instance are operating on state of art technology. The fertiliser industry has upgraded technologies. Both industries are globally competitive.

Cement exports in fact have picked up of late. The sugar and textile industries are highly inefficient and operating on obsolete technology. The manufacturing sector in general is in disarray as mostly the innovative entrepreneurs have been sidelined by flawed government policies, while inefficient industries are operating under state protection.

The disarray in private sector looks small when we look at the failure of the state in providing services through redundant systems. However, public expectations on government delivery are rising, due to the facilities provided by other governments in the region.

The government claims that it lacks resources to scale up technology, and the country has reached the ceiling of tax rates, above which the public is not ready to pay.

This may be true for developed economies, but not for Pakistan. The problem here is that indirect taxes are very high, which hurts the poor, while a large chunk of income is not taxed because of entrenched interests.

The funds for revamping and upgrade of government services and infrastructure are not available. And this is pushing some public services and entities to the very brink of operational failure.

When public sector has made investments to scale up, the resistance of vested interests is too strong to bring relief to the public.

For instance, the Punjab police department has digitalised records of all criminals from all the police stations.

Now the police department just has to take the finger print of a person needing police certificate, and if he has any criminal record anywhere in Punjab he can be identified.

In case of no record, the person should be issued a certificate forthwith. However, even after six months of digitalisation, the police certificate is still issued through a cumbersome process.

The applicant has to state the cities and localities he/she has stayed in after 18. The police will then call the record from all police stations where the applicant resided, which may take up two to three weeks.

This may be too late for the applicant who needs the certificate as requirement for visa of many countries.

The only way left is to pay speed money (illegal gratitude) to get the certificate in one to two days. This speed money is the reason that bureaucracy resists the new technology.

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