After rewarding his cronies by doling out national assets through the process of privatization in the decade of 1990s, Nawaz Sharif’s government is once again bent on selling off government concerns.
Newspapers reports claim the government has made a list of over 50 state concerns to be privatized as early as possible. The mantra of inefficiency is being repeated to hand over the control of these publicly owned entities to greedy Pakistani capitalists whose gargantuan appetite for profit does not seem to have any limit.
When the ruling elite describes privatization as a panacea, no body from our so called free and independent media asks the oligarchs sitting in the power corridor of Islamabad if the efficiency and performance is the sole criterion then why only state concerns are being privatized?
Over 1,400,000 cases are pending in our honorable courts reflecting their ‘excellent performance’ but our judges continue drawing hefty salaries from exchequers, nobody dares to call for privatizing the country’s judicial system, which is one of the most corrupt and inefficient.
Our sixth largest army in the world surrendered to our sworn enemy bringing bad name to the country, this humiliating defeat did not prompt any one—from right wing media to Harvard educated elite—to demand their privatization.
Our police has been the biggest patrons of crimes but nobody seeks this most inefficient department’s privatization.
It is argued the government could repay loans by privatizing state institutions. This was one of the excuses that the PPP-led government used in 1988 when it came to power after facing 11 years of state repression by a military dictator who denationalized state concerns to appease Pakistan’s rabidly anti Bhutto bourgeoisie. However, the first government of Benazir Bhutto did not only follow the economic policy of general Zia in essence, it rather went one step further declaring nationalization irrelevant.
Despite this privatization policy of the Benazir government, which she could not expedite because of her short stint in power, the national debt continued to rise.
Nawaz first government intensified privatization process, rendering hundreds of thousands of workers jobless by rewarding his cronies but the debts kept on surging.
Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz continued to liberalize economy during their second stint in power. Their bitter rival Pervaiz Musharraf also continued the liberalization of economy. Since July 1977, Pakistan witnessed various types of governments—from left wing PPP to right wing Nawaz and liberal Pervaiz Musharraf—but the economic policies of these all rulers almost remained the same. All of them tried to make hectic efforts to promote liberalization, deregulation and privatization.
At least 160 state concerns have been privatized from 1977 after the military coup of general Zia but the country’s debts are over 65 billion dollar today.
Out of these 160 privatized state concerns, 130 have collapsed. Sale of the state concerns did not help reduce this burden of debts. The privatization of the economy did not attract much investment or increase tax volume.
On the contrary one ex federal minister was quoted as saying in media that the privatization has badly affected the country’s GDP. Thousands of sick industries fly in the face of the claims of pro-privatization lobby that says liberalization of the economy brings more investment.
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