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September 21, 2017

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Pakistan's government is failing to improve public sector enterprises

Pakistan -- If there is one area in which Pakistan's government has utterly failed to bring about any improvement, it is in the state of public-sector enterprises.

The last review of the IMF program, released by the fund's staff, points out that the accumulated losses of the three large public-sector companies and the power sector are now greater than the country's annual development program. Standing at Rs1.365tr, they can be said to be at record highs today, though this is one record we will not hear the government bragging about. The PML-N came to power promising to rectify the dismal situation in the public-sector enterprises.

So what went wrong? Looking at each case, it turns out that the government had neither the political will nor the capacity to undertake such a massive task. The attempted privatization of PIA was clumsily handled, leading to protest and the eventual unfortunate tragedy among the striking workers.

The steel mill was supposed to be given to the Sindh government, but that process has been stalled for a number of years now. We stopped hearing about the railways reforms, and now the government is busy pumping billions of rupees into it in preparation for a massive Chinese injection. The power sector has shown improvement in recoveries by five percentage points, and reduction of line losses by one percentage point, and further accumulation in the circular debt has been halted.

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