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January 13, 2021

Institutions lost

Business

January 13, 2021

LAHORE: We have lost the excellence initially exhibited by numerous institutions established by the state and headed as well as dominated by private sector experts because bureaucrats took over with time and rendered them as inefficient as others.

It is pertinent to note that when an institution based on private sector experts is formed, the perks and privileges of these experts are much higher than those drawn by the bureaucrats. When these institutions are well established and start performing the bureaucrats maneuver to go there on deputation and enjoy the perks.

Small and Medium Enterprise Authority (SMEDA) was for instance established by PML-N in 1998 headed by a leading businessman from the private sector. Its aim was to promote the SME sector, facilitate it to upgrade technology and arrange loans worth Rs250 billion for the SMEs in the next 10 years.

The institution hired private sector experts from dairy sector, fisheries, transport, ginning. In one year, it highlighted the plight of fishermen that operated in high seas with obsolete boats without refrigeration. It was found that 80 percent of their catch was spoiled by the time they reached harbor because the fish were stacked one over the other.

It recommended and arranged loans of up to Rs5 million for the fisherman to upgrade their trawlers and harvest fish for export. The process was in the middle when the government was toppled.

The next head was from the dairy sector who pointed out flaws in dairy farming and their remedy and upgrade of the ginning sector. The awareness about better dairy farming is because of that report.

The next was an academic from LUMS who gave the Textile Vision 2020. It was during the Musharaf era that the bureaucracy took over as the perks of chairman were much better than bureaucrats. To this day it is led mostly by bureaucrats that went on to become federal secretaries. The performance has come to standstill. Even after 22 years we are looking for a viable SME policy while this sector has been systematically devastated.

The Musharaf regime established TUSDEC to upgrade the technology of the industry. Its first head was from the private sector -a crony of the then president and the next two were from the private sector.

After good initial work, the institution has gone almost into oblivion and is dominated by the bureaucracy. Sundar Industrial Estate performed miracles under the private sector chairman and CEO. Its progress slowed down to zero when the bureaucracy took over its control.

Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority was established by Shahbaz Sharif in Punjab in 1997. It was headed by a chairman of a leading tractor producer. The institution established state of art vocational training institutes and upgraded the existing with new technology. It started rolling out skilled workers as needed by the then industries.

The next two chairmen were also from the private sector but thereafter it was either a bureaucrat or a crony of the ruling party. The performance of the authority looks good in the number of skills imparted but bad in terms of quality.

The PML-N government then incorporated 50 companies under the public private cooperation concept. It is pertinent to note that almost all the heads of these companies were bureaucrats (supposed to be selected on merit after due process). How come no experts from the private sector could compete with them on merit? If we have such capable officers then why bureaucracy fails to performs. Well barring a few most of these companies also performed pathetically.

The perks and privileges in these companies were 10-15 times higher than what those bureaucrats were entitled to at their original posts. These companies also provided the bureaucrats an opportunity to accommodate their friends and families in these companies. In order to rule out the accusation of cronyism the relative or friend of the head of company A was accommodated in company Y and the relative of the head of company Y in company K. This way an untraceable web was created that accommodated favorites without merit and without being accused of cronyism. This was the reason for the failure of these companies.

The story is the same in all public sector companies. These companies need professional management. But they are loaded with bureaucratic management only because the take home salary and other perks including vehicles, house and other facilities in these companies are much higher than the perks and salaries of any grade 22 officers. The bureaucrats enjoy the life in loss-making companies and on retirement enjoy the benefits of pension as well.