Monday, 15 March 2010

Obese Government

Most donor advice to us, which most Pakistani economists slavishly accept is that revenues must increase. To this objective a number of new tax measures have been suggested and implemented without moving revenues as a ratio of GDP much.

For years I have argued that we need to look on the expenditure side of the equation if we are to control our deficit. There is little questioning of our expenditures by the media and by our citizens. Most discussion assumes that our expenditures are all for the public good. Consequently the constant refrain to increase development expenditures and expenditures for education.

My view is that we must focus on the waste in government and rationalize our expenditures so that they are truly used for public welfare.

Last year this discussion led to an article by Dr Farrukh Saleem perhaps the only article that documents a list of useless government agencies that still exist. He says,

“The government of Pakistan is fat, so fat that all the excess body fat has now put Pakistan’s cardiovascular health in extreme danger. All that accumulated fat has attracted diabetes, osteoarthritis and may be even cancer. So fat, that the airway is obstructed, breathing interrupted. Neither exercise nor dietary control is the solution. The Government of Pakistan cannot do without surgery, Bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery).

Imagine; the government owns and runs a Tomato Paste Plant and the Roti Corporation of Pakistan. There’s the Pakistan Stone Development Company, Pakistan Hunting and Sporting Arms Development Company, Pakistan Gems & Jewelry Development Company, Technology Commercialization Corporation of Pakistan, National Industrial Parks Development & Management Company, Technology Up-Gradation and Skill Development Company, National Productivity Organization, Implementation Tribunal for Newspaper Employees and Labor Market Information System and Analysis Unit. Our government spends millions of our tax rupees on each and every one of these but does anyone know what these high-sounding entities do?
Did you know that our government actually spends real rupees on the Center for Applied & Molecular Biology? The Center even has a webpage but the only things on the webpage are two rather meaningless emblems, nothing more nothing less. Then there’s the Council for Work and Housing Research (the webpage has 10 icons but the same page appears regardless of which icon is clicked), National Institute of Electronics, Pakistan Council for Science and Technology, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Technology, Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority, Central Inspectorate of Mines, Directorate of Dock Workers Safety, Directorate of Workers Education, National Institute of Labor Administration Training, National Talent Pool, National Training Bureau and a Pakistan Manpower Institute. What do these organizations do? What is their mission and what have they achieved ever?

Has the National Institute of Electronics ever produced something even distantly related to electronics? What good has the Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technologies ever done? Has the Center for Applied & Molecular Biology ever produced anything even distantly related to molecules, or for that matter, biology? Pakistan National Accreditation Council what a joke! Has the Pakistan Automobile Corporation ever produced anything even distantly related to automobiles? Has the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan ever done anything even remotely related to trade?

Dr Nadeem Ul Haque, estimates that our Ministry of Commerce must have sent some five dozen commercial counsellors around the world. Each one of these counsellors, roughly, cost the government a crore rupees per year and that’s Rs60 crore a year. Dr Haque insists that all these high-sounding organizations should at least be asked to justify their existence.

How much software has the Pakistan Software Export Board exported so far and what has the Engineering Development Board developed? How much tourism has the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation developed?

That isn’t the end of the story. There is even more fat. PIA, SME Bank, First Women Bank, National Insurance Corporation, Hazara Phosphate Fertilizers, Printing Corporation of Pakistan, Machine Tool Factory, Morafco Industries, Sind Engineering, Lakhra Coal Mine, Khewra Salt Mine, Pakistan Steel Mills, Services International, National Fertilizers Corporation, State Engineering Corporation, Pakistan Steel Fabricating Company Limited, Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation, Ghee Corporation of Pakistan, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation, Pakistan Railways, State Cement Corporation of Pakistan, State Petroleum Refining & Petrochemicals Corporation, Pakistan Industries Development Corporation, Trading Corporation of Pakistan, Cotton Export Corporation of Pakistan, Rice Export Corporation of Pakistan, Pakistan Industrial and Technical Training Center and Pakistan Engineering Company.

Fat is bleeding the state of Pakistan dry. Obesity cuts down life expectancy. If each and every one of the entities mentioned in this article is shut down, Pakistan will be better-off, not worse-off.

Why can we not just eliminate these wasteful government agencies?