Tuesday, 9 March 2010

What are public enterprises doing in Pakistan?

Most of our histroy we have had budgetry problems. Repeated Fund programs have been contracted to address our fiscal situation. The typical economist mantra is increase taxation. No one seems to look at the plethora of public enterprises that seem to hang over from our socialist planning days. Journalists find this to be an unexciting topic compared to the NRO and the usual topics.

So today let us review one public enterrpise-NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION. More to follow later.

National Book Foundation says on its website that in a 25 year period (1972-2007), it has produced 7113 books and revenues of Rs. 1308 million. At today’s xchnge rate that is $15 million. Using an approximate average exchange rate over this period of about 45 to the US dollar, they will have sold books worth about $ 45 million. Let us analyze this situation

  • 1. Bascially they have published 284 books in a year backed by state funding and a virtual state monopoly in its early years. This in a country of 180 million is a bit sad. Most serious countires are publishing well over a 1000 a year. According to UNESCO, India publishes over 11,000 a year, and both the US and UK publish over 2,00,000 books a year.
  • 2. It is indeed sad that NBF has made revenues of less than $ 1 to 2 million a year from a national franchise with public money. Presumably this number is total sales and we have no idea of costs since the budget is not posted on thir website. Compare this to the revenues of the Largest publisher in the world Pearson which were over $ 8 billion in 2008 which that of the 20th Largest publisher in the world Springer Science was over $1.2 billion.

Some of these agencies were set up in the era of national socialism when we wanted a separate education and build a national identity. We have seen the folly of that policy! Poor quality texts, outmoded syllabi and texts doctored by chauvinists (see KK Aziz books and SDPI and SAHE publications).

NBF is not the only public enterprise dealing with books. There are the textbook boards, Urdu Science Board and several literacy development boards.

What we need is a complete financial and performance audit of all these agencies including the NBF. I do hope some journalists will be inspired to look into this issue.

Perhaps the government might also be inspired to look into why we need to carry agencies like the NBF into the 21st century?