Enterprise - - Contents - By Rahat Sid­diqi

What ails our SOEs?

Pak­istan’s state owned en­ter­prises (SOEs) have been slowly but surely de­te­ri­o­rat­ing over years be­cause of wrong choice of CEOs and our re­fusal to hire best qual­i­fied team of pro­fes­sion­als to head man­age­ment with moral in­tegrity and spe­cial­i­sa­tion in rel­e­vant fields, in­stead of jacks of all trades.

Ev­ery gov­ern­ment talks about pro­mot­ing ed­u­ca­tion or keep­ing abreast with lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances and adopt­ing cor­po­rate sys­tem, but ends up ap­point­ing semi-lit­er­ate cronies to head SOEs. For in­stance reg­u­lat­ing power dis­tri­bu­tion and its eco­nom­i­cal pro­duc­tion is a spe­cialised field. Im­prove­ments can only be achieved if lat­est tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances are in­cor­po­rated to check theft with cred­i­ble ef­fi­cient dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem ca­pa­ble to ab­sorb any in­crease in ca­pac­ity after adopt­ing most cost ef­fec­tive mode of pro­duc­tion viz a viz source of en­ergy namely hy­del, ther­mal etc. Un­for­tu­nately when a gov­ern­ment fac­ing an acute en­ergy cri­sis comes up with a decision to ap­point a re­tired uni­formed of­fi­cer whose sole qual­i­fi­ca­tions are bach­e­lor of en­gi­neer­ing and masters in de­fence strat­egy, apart from his ten­ure of head­ing a dis­tri­bu­tion net­work in Karachi, with high­est line losses and il­le­git­i­mate con­nec­tions.

Sim­i­larly just like ev­ery child’s fan­tasy with pi­lots and fire­fight­ers, it shocks the imag­i­na­tion that suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments think that pi­lot­ing skills are suf­fi­cient to help na­tional car­rier PIA turn around, although an­nual bal­ance sheet proves oth­er­wise.

A pro­fes­sional com­mer­cial pi­lot is as qual­i­fied to head an air­line as an en­gine driver is to head Rail­ways. The sole ex­cep­tion was Air Mar­shall Nur Khan, a man with im­pec­ca­ble in­tegrity who given pow­ers to hire and fire, know­ing his lim­i­ta­tions, hired best qual­i­fied team to han­dle man­age­ment. There­after given tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances in avi­a­tion, it re­quires best qual­i­fied spe­cial­ists in the fields of mar­ket­ing, fi­nance, pro­cure­ment and au­to­ma­tion, with fool proof check and bal­ances to avoid pil­fer­age, not just a tough guy.

The choice of Mushar­raf to ap­point a For­man­ite whose sole qual­i­fi­ca­tion was that he was con­sid­ered a tough guy in col­lege, failed to achieve any re­sults be­cause dur­ing his ten­ure ex­ec­u­tive cor­ri­dor was mo­nop­o­lised by medi­ocrity and for the first time se­nior ex­ec­u­tives ap­pointed were not even grad­u­ates. The fact that there is no pri­vate or state owned suc­cess­ful air­line in­volved in sched­uled op­er­a­tion headed by a pi­lot, does not de­ter suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments to ap­point their cronies.

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