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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Ghotki train accident: Is privatization the answer?

As the country deals with another horrific train crash, Moeid Javeed, a senior telecom executive, highlights flaws within the system. He also suggests ways to reform it.

Organizations need to continuously reinvent themselves, otherwise, they become stale, complacent, and noncompetitive. This holds true, especially for state-owned organizations. Transformation is a painful process but it’s direly needed in all of today’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

While on one hand transformation requires setting clear goals, objectives, and execution strategy, on the other hand dealing with status quo powers is a huge challenge. The vested interests are deep-rooted. Unions, old associations, and old ways of working become the biggest bottleneck. The new people and fresh ideas are rejected, in fact, all the vested groups work together to make them fail.

These organizations have a habit of working in silos and making sure that no one takes any ownership hence no one can be blamed then. S. Pakistan Railways, PTV, PIA, Pakistan steel are stark examples in this day and age.

Read more: Pakistan Railways: Not being operated the way it should be – Chief Justice

Every now and then we hear about accidents, massive losses, and corruption cases but none of the successive governments has been able to do anything about these white SOEs elephants. The prime reason is a battalion of incompetent people who then form unions to blackmail and politicize the organizations. If any action is taken at all, the very parasites take advantage of our legal system and make sure no decision is implemented.

The governments do not give enough time or resources to make things orderly while oppositions rely only on point-scoring. None of these SOEs’ business cases or transformational agendas have ever been discussed in Parliament nor any legislation has been done for their support and cleansing.

Railway accidents have become a routine affair. Since it’s a poor man’s vehicle, we will see a lot of non-productive defense and offense from both government and opposition for a day or so, and then the entire episode will vanish as if it never happened.

The irony is that there will be no reasonable debate in the elected houses nor will any heads roll and even no resources will be provided to mitigate the accidents. The bureaucracy will find umpteen ways to distract and shove the case under piles of files.

Read more: Op-ed: The bureaucracy should be declared sick and then appropriately treated

What needs to be done?

Probably, it is time to privatize service delivery by handing it over to the private sector, since the Telecom and Banking industry is a success story. The Telecom industry has shown us that a competitive environment can not only bring better services and prices for the consumers but huge benefits for the government itself.

The legislature must pass laws to privatize the service delivery institutes with proper regulatory frameworks. The government should concentrate on competitive policymaking and regulations.

Read more: PTI decides to prepare new privatization policy

The private sector should be enabled to deliver the service delivery for the common man. Job creation remains one of the key objectives of all governments but a channel that can be operated by 200 people is run by more than 5000 people in the government sector. The excess people not only take any ownership of their work rather they create obstacles to prove their existence.

The judicial system must also provide support to the executive and endless status quo orders must refrain if any transformation is envisioned. It’s wishful thinking to assume that the opposition not pointing fingers will provide some alternative solutions and the government will not work in silos.

Read more: Justice system: Why and how should Imran Khan reform it?

The way forward for this country is to learn from the world and take progressive steps. Transform the process of fundamentally changing the systems, processes, people, and technology but above that transform the way we all think.

Moied Javeed is a senior telecom executive in Pakistan and can be reached at mj@tptglobal.net. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.